05/29/2016 08:05 pm ET Updated May 30, 2017

What Not to Do When Your Grown Children Visit

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

Let's face it. I am an Indian mom. That means, among other things, I am genetically programmed to begin and end every phone call and every conversation with my children and family with a couple of mandatory questions.

Did you eat? (It doesn't matter what time of day it is.)

What did you eat? (If the answer to the above is yes.)

When and what will you eat? (If the answer is no.)

Sometimes the call may be just about whether they ate or plan to eat.

My kids have accepted that this would always be so. It used to be so bad that I would ask them what they wanted for lunch, as they were finishing breakfast.

These days, when they come home for a weekend, I typically start asking what they want to eat when they're home a couple of days prior to their visit. Between my two, and my son's girlfriend, who, incidentally, is vegan and loves Indian food, I look forward to cooking for three children, and a husband who thinks I only make special things when the kids are home.

But on a recent weekend with the three of them visiting with two dogs, things got a little bit crazier than normal.

First, I had my Saturday morning French class (part of my plan on how to handle being an empty nester, blogged here), for which I was doing the homework the night before. Out went the precious "I'll make all the make ahead stuff before they come home" time.

My husband was getting ready to go to India, and also running around to help pick up my son's car and get the paperwork and insurance done, all on Saturday morning.

What happened was this: the kids, as much as they helped, couldn't do it as fast as I wanted them to. We didn't see Raj all of Saturday that made me pretty mad, as he was leaving for India early Sunday.

And, being an empty nester for the last 5 years, I had gotten used to making real simple meals for me and Raj, and to get back into heavy cooking for the weekend was not as easy as it used to be, how much ever I planned and tried to be efficient.

In the end, there was frustration all around. By lunchtime on Saturday, I was ready to call it a day. And I had three more meals to go.

And that got me thinking: maybe it shouldn't be all about food. I loved feeding them food I knew they missed and they really enjoyed it, but I was determined to squeeze so much in a 48-hour period, and focused on just feeding them, that I had missed out on the most important thing: being there, being in the moment and simply enjoying their company.

We were a tired and grumpy bunch midway through the weekend. But hey, they were well fed!

After the three kids, two dogs and one husband left, a sudden quiet fell and there was an aching vacuum. Show over, the theater was empty and I had absolutely nothing to do, nobody to feed and nobody to talk to.

As I tried to think back to the last two and a half days, all I had was brief, fuzzy flashes of conversations:

- My daughter telling me about her school, that I only half-listened,

- My son telling about all the exciting things he was getting to do in his first job, and how cool Philly was,

-The questions I had meant to ask and never did. The questions I did ask, but was too distracted to pay attention to the answers, leaving them still questions.

Allison who was a bit ill, and quiet, that I barely noticed that she wasn't even eating much
And I realized that I had missed seeing the forest for the trees. As much as they enjoy my cooking, they also kept telling me that they would rather spend time with me, maybe play some games or watch a movie without me falling asleep in the first ten minutes. But I didn't listen, because dammit, they were going to be fed, the dishes had to be done and the kitchen was going to be spotless.

So, here's my promise, kiddos (or threat, depending) -- next time, we will play Sequence, and watch a movie or two and have some real conversations. And maybe some take out and pizza.