A Westport mother of a college-age student emailed me about the dilemma she and her young adult face. She requested anonymity, because she speaks for many. She writes:
There are many layers and ripple effects of the coronavirus, on all of us.
The most important is staying healthy and safe. But the list goes on: small businesses struggling, hourly wage employees suffering, education impacted, special life-shaping milestone events canceled and postponed.
And now, thousands of college kids in Westport will suddenly be thrust back into their childhood homes without warning.
Most of these college kids were about to enter the peak of their academic year. Spring is upon us, with all of the energy and excitement it brings to college campuses — parties, events, coming out of dorm hibernation, hanging outside on the quad.
Many of these college students were about to go on spring break. Those plans were abruptly canceled. Worst of all, seniors everywhere were heading into their final lap of glory, ready to savor their last few months of “childhood” before graduation.
Now those months were taken away from them. Even worse, so will likely be the pinnacle event of their young lives: college graduation.
The psychological impact of these “losses” cannot be undermined. This is very real, very sad and difficult. We need to acknowledge that, somehow.
Now families — still struggling to form some semblance of a routine with their younger children and spouses spending all waking hours together — suddenly have to deal with their miserable adult-aged child, who does not want to be back home, thrust back into their bedroom and into their parents’ kitchen.
These “kids” have been independent (most likely not financially, yet) in their social and academic lives. They are used to making their own schedules, studying where, when, and how they wish to, eating what and when they desire, and being with their friends whenever they wish to — all without their parents knowing or wanting to know.
Now, having their glorious spring semester of freedom cut drastically short, without any time or ability to process their departure and what may lie ahead, or even to say goodbye to dear friends before their parents were mandated to urgently scoop them up before dorms closed, they return home with heavy, confused hearts, and a truckload of hastily packed belongings.
Now — here’s the kicker — we have to keep them home on top of all of this.
They cannot visit their friends from Staples. They cannot hop in the car and be comforted by visiting local college friends.
They cannot blow off steam after taking online classes all day from their bedroom, and grab a bite with friends for dinner. They cannot study with friends at Starbucks.
And we are expecting them to listen to their parents?!
We all have to be the bad guys here. It will be very uncomfortable.
Parents of elementary-age kids are struggling to say no to sleepovers and play dates. Now we have to say “no” to our 20 year old “kids,” and keep them away from all of their friends who also were exposed to thousands of people from their colleges and communities.
It isn’t going to be easy, and it is counterintuitive in every ounce of our parenting bodies.
But we have no choice. If our goal is to protect our families, our health, our normalcy, our daily routines, and our community at large, we all must stay home.
Even the cranky giant college-aged toddlers we are about to feed 3 meals a day to, yet again.
May the force be with us!