By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Countdown to the most important calendar date: start of Christmas break
Placeholder Image

The holidays are about Advent calendars and the count-down to Christmas eve. For parents with college students, here is a more relevant number – 12. That’s how many days are left until college boy returns from the last day of finals. And for those who don’t know this drill, prepare to be enlightened.
There are five phases of the Christmas break.
Phase one.  Welcome home! For the next hour, the Prodigal sons get a free pass. Countless transgressions -- lost phone, wallet, car keys, fender benders, parking tickets, bounced checks – all shoved under the carpet. In return for this safe harbor, they talk freely about the semester and disclose anecdotes having nothing to do with their basket weaving class. Information flows freely, assisted by a carb load in the form of muffins, cookies and brownies. Eventually mom’s focus turns to grades, bills, credit card charges, and those inappropriate photos someone mentioned to her on Facebook. Overheard in our house: “tell me about the semester. Let’s start with day one.”
Phase two:  The big dig. Mom’s become archeologists. Dude’s clothes pile landed just inside the front door and includes much more than just clothes, if you know what I mean. Moms dive in and deconstruct the socks, party favors, receipts, five hour energy bottles. Indiana Jones couldn’t solve some of these mysteries. MIA? Combs, razors, toothpaste. The Tide goes empty, the bleach runs dry. Manmouth Duo? Sandbar party? Owloween? That’s interesting .. lipstick? Untouched by human hands – what mom left them four months earlier -- trash bags, flashlight, first aid kit, sun screen, stamps.
Phase three:  “Where are you going? You just got home!” They have mini reunions in neighborhood basements, local bars, and places where no adults can find them. This is networking the old fashioned way – fist thumps, bromance hugs, chest bumps. The information stream just dried up and that river won’t flow until they need money for Spring break. Phones suddenly have low batteries or have poor service when mom sends late night texts. Change jars go empty. Cars with the full gas tank disappear. Rejoinder: “Later mom … I’m on vacation!”
Phase four:  Dude’s a possum. Their nocturnal habits raise the tension. Lights left on, garage doors open all night, shoes tracking mud, curfews busted. Memo to Dude: this isn’t a hotel and there’s no mini-bar. Toilets clog, hot water heaters blow and broadband is stretched to its limits. Entire countries invaded and defended. On X-Box. Promises to find a job, clean the car, wake up before noon – broken. Lucky Charms inhaled. The Five Hour Energy has left the building. Rip Van Winkle took its place.
Phase five:  The honeymoon is over. Its December 26. You have 22 more days left until school begins again on Jan 17. Time for tough love and then ask some important questions:
– Who are those boys in the basement? They are boys, right?
– Where’s my Christmas gift?
– What’s growing on your face?
In our house in Kansas City, this is when we hope to hear these words: “I want to go to Great Bend to visit Grandpa.” Wish granted.
Parents … what’s your experience? Send me your story and I’ll write a post-holiday piece …
Matt has a new book out … Call Me Dad, Not Dude. The Sequel. Available at The Heart of Kansas. Follow him on Twitter: @DudeKeenan.