Pack­age par­ties

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife -

add tis­sue pa­per in school colors. Moms of­ten write notes of sup­port to the stu­dents, or the whole group may sign a card for each box, so stu­dents know who was think­ing of them back home.

The par­ties are spread­ing “like wild­fire,” says Lisa Hef­fer­nan, co-founder of the web­site Grown and Flown , whose Face­book group has many posts on the par­ties.

“Ev­ery time we put one of these pic­tures up in the group, it spawns a whole bunch of par­ties,” she said. “Just be­cause our kids got older, that doesn’t mean par­ents don’t need a com­mu­nity and the vil­lage.”

Hef­fer­nan says the peo­ple in­vited to the par­ties aren’t nec­es­sar­ily your clos­est friends but the moms you en­joyed so­cial­iz­ing with through your chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties. Through the par­ties, the moms get to main­tain long-stand­ing con­nec­tions with other par­ents while con­tin­u­ing to sup­port the chil­dren they have adored and cheered on for years.

“We’ve stood on the side­lines of their lives,” she said. “This is a way of us con­tin­u­ing to do that.”

Of course, a mom could sim­ply make a sin­gle care pack­age on her own, but the par­ties are more fun, Hef­fer­nan says: “It ends up be­ing like a girls night out.”

Mia Walsh dropped off her older daugh­ter, Kate, at Bow­doin Col­lege in Maine in Au­gust, and held her first care pack­age party on Sept. 6, wel­com­ing 15 moms of first-year col­lege stu­dents into her Bal­ti­more home. They had ap­pe­tiz­ers and drinks and talked for 90 min­utes be­fore start­ing the “conga line” of fill­ing the boxes with adult col­or­ing books, dry erase boards, candy and more.

“It was won­der­ful,” said Walsh, who has an­other daugh­ter still at home. “We all had sto­ries to tell even though the kids had been in school for two weeks.”

There were a few tears, but the moms do­ing well of­fered guid­ance to those strug­gling. “It was re­ally, re­ally help­ful to the moms that were hav­ing the most dif­fi­cult time,” she said.

Mow, whose son is at Le­high Univer­sity and whose daugh­ter at­tends Columbia, says the women at her gath­er­ings have grown closer through the re­laxed, per­sonal set­ting at home.

The best thing about the par­ties, Hef­fer­nan says, is that par­ents stay con­nected to peo­ple they care about.

“We call it the empty nest,” she said. “That’s such a de­press­ing, va­cant-sound­ing word. This kind of takes away the empty part. This is one way that al­lows us to stay mean­ing­fully con­nected to our com­mu­nity, and it’s just great fun.”

MIA WALSH VIA AP

These items were packed at the Bal­ti­more home of Mia Walsh dur­ing a care pack­age party in Septem­ber. At the par­ties, par­ents swap up­dates about their chil­dren, sup­port each other and pack treats for chil­dren away at school.

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