This weekend, I’m driving my son back to college in a city a few hours away, where the COVID-19 death toll is so high they require refrigerated trailers to manage the morgues. Umm, how does one process that? Stay home, lock down, but carry on and get back to class. It’s confusing. But, these are the times we’re living in. Still, he is eager to get gone. I get that.
I’m grateful for the few weeks our college boy was home, but it’s bittersweet. As wonderful as our quiet, low-key Christmas holiday was, I know he felt slightly foreign in the house he grew up in. Four months of independence changed him in a good way. It’s amazing to witness, but I won’t lie, it’s weird. I know I have to let go to hold on. Life moves forward, as it should.
His newfound independence means he doesn’t fit with us the same way. He sits at his normal place-setting at the dinner table, but he no longer eases into the conversations. He’s outgrown his childhood bedroom, too. He spent time reorganizing it to represent who he is now; less boy, more man (still dishes everywhere).
It must be bizarre not to be able to see his hometown pals either. Friendships just blocks from home are virtual now. Life feels virtual. So, much like he did in his last year of online high school, he has rarely come out of his room since he’s been home. Can’t blame him. We’re not an exciting family. Our house is a dull destination with lacklustre snacks. I like to believe we were fun once. I am confident we will be again.
Our family is obeying the rules. We stay home unless we‘re at work. We watch too much television. We are on our devices too much. We repeat chores. Bedtimes are early. Mornings are earlier. We’re tired, but not from activity. Just life tired. Just like everyone else.
What’s most disheartening is the new normal has brought a complacency to it that I hope will evaporate in time. I’m glad we raised someone who can follow the rules respectfully, but I also hope we have taught our son to remain hopeful.
When the world comes out from under the wet blanket of COVID-19, I hope he and his friends are all the more inspired to go after what they want, to explore their surroundings and fly beyond them. I want him to shrug off the weight of the boredom and live fully. I truly do. And sometimes, come home.
This holiday, I am grateful for our walks on the trails, the small talk, the rugby scrimmages in the kitchen (really) and the guitar serenades while I washed dishes. Little moments. Big life. Great kid.
Parents who are trying to support their child’s remote learning while also trying to balance jobs or businesses, households and their humour: you have my respect.
I can’t imagine how challenging and exhausting it is to do it all. Just know that one day, that child is going to fly away. You will miss this time together. Even the grumpy moments. Trust me.
Just know the investment of your time and love is worth it. It’s everything.
To college and university kids heading to your other home: be well and stay safe. Don’t lose hope. Better days ahead.