Westport Mom: As College Students Return, We Must Keep Them Home

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.

What college students expected this spring …

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.

… and what they’ve got.

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!

42 responses to “Westport Mom: As College Students Return, We Must Keep Them Home

  1. Sarah A. Hale

    really. that’s the best picture you could find.

  2. Sharon Fiarman

    I agree. And it’s gut wrenchingly hard. We were the bad guys last night when we wouldn’t let our son see his college buddies who were meeting up at one of their homes. He grudgingly “joined” them for the entire night virtually via FaceTime and had a great time. We are lucky (in so many ways) and in this case especially to have technology to keep us connected. And I love the idea of buying gift cards to support our local businesses and stay safe at the same time. Good luck to all!

  3. Kathleen Brady

    You to do what you got to do.

  4. Patricia Perry

    Really? This hardship? Wow! I’m so offended by your picture that I have no words.

  5. If you think this is hard, put yourself in the shoes of health workers and first responders who are getting no break from work or exposure to a potentially deadly virus. In other words, get a grip. There are worse things than having pouty, disappointed, bored, spoiled children! Good grief.

  6. Dr. Fauci warned today that an enormous number of people could die if social activities are not severely restricted in the near term and he did not rule out a national lockdown.

    I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened already based on the fears and concerns of the top infectious disease experts like Fauci.

    • Russell Gontar

      It hasn’t happened because a certain “someone” is more concerned about the economy’s affect on their election prospects than on the health and safety of the american people. Fauci has already been told to cooi it with the facts and information.

  7. Grayson Braun

    Dan…the picture is fantastic…where can I get that bathing suit?

  8. Grayson Braun

    Dan…love the photo…do you know where I can get that swimsuit?

    • Grayson Braun

      Sorry for the double post…I liked it that much…actually, I had a problem with my phone.

  9. I think the new found time to spend with your children will no doubt be a blessing in disguise, I know it’s not the worst thing to happen, In light of your writing, I was thinking about what my parents thought when my brother and I went in the service during the Vietnam war, whether or not we would ever come home again,
    Enjoy the time with your children

  10. Terrific post, Dan. Since the college “kids” are actually adults, and used to absorbing new information, may I offer this suggestion from a child-free neighbor? Educate them about why avoiding social contact is vital and will help save the nation, not just Westport. This long and extraordinary article should convince any student smart enough to stay in college of that fact:

    If they won’t read it or remain unconvinced, hide all the car keys. Chain the bikes. None of them would walk, right? It’s everyone’s civic duty to dampen community infection by avoiding social contact outside the family. Though I still don’t get closing down the Compo parking lots.

  11. It’s amazing how mathematically ignorant people, even presumably well-educated people, are. Put aside possible privilege issues. What their attitudes reflect is a poor understanding of basic math.

    It might seem as though it’s not much of an issue when COVID-19 cases increase from 1000 to 2000. After all, we’re a nation of 350 million people. So why be concern?

    Do this exercise and you will see the answer instantly. If the number of cases doubles every five days, calculate the outcome in 3 months — say 100 days. Multiply 2 by 2 by 2 until you’ve done it 20 — that’s 100/5 — times. If you have a math calculator, raise 2 to the 20th power. The answer is 1,048,576 or just under a third of the U.S. population.

    A little scary? You bet. Now consider the mortality rate: best guess right now is between 1 and 2 percent, averaged over all age groups, but as high as 20 percent among the over 80 crowd. For the nation as a whole the 2 percent number suggests more than 200,000 deaths. And that’s just for the next three months. If the virus persists, as the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic did and resulted in 675,000 American deaths, the outcome could easily be 1-2 million.

    Bemoaning how college kids are going to be damaged emotionally by cancellation of in-person college classes and spring-break flings trivializes the COVID-19 threat. It also illustrates the failings of our schools when it comes to teaching mathematical concepts.

    • Michael — the United States 2020 population is estimated at 331,002,651 people at mid year according to UN data. So 1,048,576 is .332% rather than one third. Still too many.

  12. Matt Brodtman

    I would love to share this on my Facebook and Nextdoor. Is that ok?

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Absolutely. The whole idea of “06880” is to create community and share information. Please send this along far and wide!

      • Marion Potter

        Well said. We can do this. !!

      • Danielle Alexander

        Create community that is insensitive to and objectifies women? 🤔 Take the well deserved criticism on the photo, Dan, and then redirect back to your article. Crisis situations do not mean women have to turn a blind eye to items such as this one.

  13. Well said, Westport Mom. I’m about to have three “quaranteens”, so I get it. The sooner we handle this with strength and smarts, the sooner we can all return healthfully to normalcy. Be well and hang in there!

  14. Bob Stalling

    Day two of your college kids confinement:

  15. Jack Backiel

    We need to be disciplined, and practice social distancing. If you feel that you need to get out, go grab a bagel and go back home.

    • No! going out to grab a bagel is a bad idea. this is part of the problem. the more times you go out the more exposures / possible transmissions. go shopping for a lot of food, freeze what you can, and stop going out constantly.

  16. Sharon Horowitz

    Agree. Beautifully written piece. Thank you for writing it.

  17. Please note on my previous post, I should have indicated that my total number is based on the initial 10 cases.

  18. For education and enlightenment about social distancing, this may be easier:

  19. Gail Sutherland

    While I understand the situation is not ideal
    We have the most pampered students in the world.
    Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they can and will adapt without a total breakdown.
    Life is so much harder in so many other places
    In this world even without the Pandemic.
    These students don’t have to worry about
    Having enough food or their electricity being shut off or not having heat in their homes. Let’s get some perspective people.

  20. Bruce J Kent

    Laughable? Sickening? Pathetic? I’m hard pressed to pick the correct word to describe my reaction to Mommy’s letter.

    I wonder how some other mothers in 3rd world S- – – hole countries feel about not having enough food to feed their children, nor the resources to provide adequate medical care should their children become sick or injured.

  21. Wendy Cusick

    They’re are returning adult students from colleges and universities abroad and right here in the US that have to be quarantined. I just hope everyone who is sick can ride out the symptoms. I don’t want to be reading about funerals.
    Yes, I’m being realistic. We are dealing with a serious worldwide situation that we all have to deal with that can go downhill fast and unexpected.
    Life can take a turn that none of us saw coming.
    Please be mature and responsible for your actions around other people and be aware of your surroundings.
    I wish people were a little more responsible for their actions with regard to the beach. Now those that wished to sit in their vehicles and enjoy some fresh sea air and waves or keep their distance and take a walk have now lost the privilege because others wouldn’t stop congregating.

    • A couple of great places to sit in your car and watch the water: Longshore (the lower lot past the Parks & Rec office and golf pro shop), and Sherwood Island State Park.

      • Wendy Cusick

        Ssshh Dan, 🤐 After the Soundview post maybe those spots should be kept secret at Longshore 😁

  22. I don’t understand why the writer would want to keep such a beautiful piece of writing anonymous. All she has to say is “I know I don’t speak for all parents but…” or “Many of us feel …” Acknowledging and validating the feelings of others (i.e. college students) is an act of supreme generosity. I hope all derailed college students read it. And yes, nix the pic.

  23. C. R. Freeman

    So well said❣️ And we are also coping with husbands’ home working for a week or two. May the force of technology and your ingenuity prevail!

  24. Margaret Elliott

    Dan, Have some really terrible news for the college students who are home and stuck with their parents or it seems parents are stuck with them. It’s not enough that they have to be home and not be able to park at Compo Beach…
    Lulu lemon is closing all North American stores for 2 weeks because of the Coronavirus.
    As a 71 year old woman whose parents moved to Westport while I was leaving for my freshman year in college in 1966, I am amazed and saddened by the parents and children in Westport. I was the oldest of 4 kids with 2 parents and an Irish Nanny, not the kind most people think of, a real nanny (grandmother) that we loved with all our hearts.
    When these college kids are bored go have them do some yard work, help the cleaning women clean their rooms, do their own wash and actually worry about how their grandparents are coping with being confined to their nursing homes. Use all their technology to find out how family members are doing instead of talking to their friends online. Don’t disrupt the Westport Police from helping people in real need because you block roads to go to the beach to congregate.
    Realize what’s important in life, and how someday you can be as selfless and brave as first responders and medical personal.
    By the way, the house that fit 7 people for many years was torn down and made into a monstrosity nearly 20 yrs ago, now houses a family of four. The 2 kids have their own wing so they won’t disturb their parents.
    Someday when the kids are grown and out of the house and parents are older you might wish you had the time to be together.
    As my father used to say,when you have your health, you have everything.
    May you all stay healthy!

  25. Dermot Meuchner

    Thank you from a fellow human!

  26. I grew up in Westport (class of 87) and this article perfectly sums up why I will never return to this unbelievably over Privileged community. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful yet ridiculously un/authentic upbringing. You have no awareness of that when you’re a child though so unfortunately the real world is a rude awakening.
    I have zero sympathy for this Mom and her obviously spoiled child. Grow a pair Mom. Clearly you haven’t taught your child any level of gratitude. As the mother of a nine-year-old I understand how difficult it is to teach your children how to be grateful for how good they have it. You need to sit them down and have a conversation about reality. Then allow them to make their own decisions. Give them all the facts and truths that we know about the situation and let them make their own decisions. If they want to go to Starbucks then Let them go to Starbucks. Define your boundaries and your rules and if Starbucks is a dealbreaker for you explain what the consequences are. The way you wrote that article sounds like you are scared of your own children. A 20 year old is an adult, but if they live under your roof it’s your rules.
    And Mr. Woog…… that picture is so out of character for your blog and is a perfect example of how our society objectifies women. How about a picture of a bunch of guys drinking beer on the beach doing something stupid because that is what spring break is usually all about.
    This whole article is an embarrassment of riches, privilege and the resultant sexism that stems from a community run by rich men. ugh…..

    • Bob Stalling

      Difference of opinion.
      Looks to me like everyone in that picture is having fun…including the women (if you look close, you can see many in the picture).
      Being young and free on a beach with clear blue water, no anxiety, away from the stress and pressures of schools…. and society judging you.
      Beats being confined to your house:

      Posting this again for some levity:

  27. Jeanine A Esposito

    This article stands in sharp contrast to the one a couple of days later about the 3 Westport teens volunteering to help vulnerable Seniors in this time of crisis. Given the seriousness of what is happening here in Westport (and the world), it does seem that mourning the loss of a party-heavy spring break is maybe a bit out of touch. However, I’m remembering back to my own perspective of life as a teen and my being angry that I was not able to be in school plays because I had to help my Dad in the family business every day after school. As it turned out, my Dad died unexpectedly at age 60 when I was in my 20’s and those years I had working with him everyday gave me precious time with him that I would never have had. All this to say, maybe its best to try to look at what one does have during this period of crisis, and the unexpected gifts it may bring, rather than what we can’t do.
    (Oh and Dan you know I’m a huge fan and read everything you write, but I have to agree with some of the others on the photo for this one…)