Our 320 Bonus Days Living With Adult Kids

On day 320 of our pandemic lockdown, my son and his girlfriend moved into their own apartment. They left skid marks like I’d been beating them, throwing things in boxes and laundry baskets and trash bags as if they had 120 seconds at Target and got to keep whatever they could carry out. 

They slept on the floor on air mattresses, sat on soccer chairs from our shed, and cooked pasta in a frying pan because they left or sold everything two kids living in New York had accumulated over a college life when they moved back to Texas in the winter of 2019.

mom and sons
I got some bonus time with my grown sons. (Credit: Vonda Klimaszewski of Vonda K Portraits in Dallas)

The kids moved in with us right before the world shut down

Fresh out of Brooklyn with a business management degree and Certified Personal Trainer certificate in hand, my oldest son, Noah, was ready for the world. His girlfriend, now a pre-nursing student, was finding her way and they decided back home was the place to do that. So back to Dallas they came. 

The honeymoon of our reunion included Christmas, a trip to Italy, and early 2020 family dinners without an empty chair. They “temporarily” stored what few belongings they brought back in our shed, and picked up things at Marshall’s every now and then for their new apartment. They planned to move “probably in April,” just to be on the economically safe side. 

The honeymoon actually continued even after Dallas went on lockdown at 11:59 pm on March 23, 2020.  

This is how it started and this is how it’s going

How it started: homemade blueberry muffins every Wednesday, Noah and his brother shooting up Noah’s broken college toaster oven in the backyard with their childhood BB guns, the brothers and girlfriend starting a Corona Gardens of East Dallas business, a full and fancy ThanksEaster feast on Easter Sunday.  

How it’s going: “I did at least my third of the dishes if you count the fork I picked up from the bathroom floor,” “Basketballs are an OUTSIDE activity,” and “I’m on a work call so CAN YOU PLEASE WATCH THAT TIKTOK WITH HEADPHONES?” 

Nobody had it easy with their kids during this time. I save all my thoughts and prayers for parents of school-aged kids. They and their teachers deserve all the wine and brie and baguettes in France for their sacrifices. Our circumstance, though, is fairly unique…even for a pandemic. 

No one has it easy, our story is unique

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before we went into lockdown. We had recent college graduate Noah, girlfriend Natasha, and local college student Sawyer. They have each had at least one COVID birthday and are 23, 22, and 21 respectively. Sawyer has a March birthday so he was 19 when this started and 21 when it (hopefully) ends. Two of them work and one is, again, freshly 21.

Sawyer really did a good job of lockdown for a 20-year-old, but it was not surprising when we recently learned 20somethings were spreading the virus faster than any other age group. Every single one of Sawyer’s closest friends had had COVID by November.  

COVID risk and breast cancer treatment don’t play nicely together. By June, my husband and I realized it was too risky for him to go back and forth. His mom needed a lot of care through chemo, surgery, and radiation. So he moved in with her 30 minutes away and we’ve been socially distancing ever since. Which left me as a single parent of three adult children for nine months.

While I was alone with the kids…

• We had multiple scares, and eventually had a favorite COVID test site. All three of my young people got COVID in January (I somehow escaped it, armed with my KN-95, well-practiced hand-washing skills, and a lovely Bridgerton diversion over a 10-day period). 

• Planted a garden and bragged on the daily about our harvest, be it one cherry tomato or a handful of okra, a watermelon, and a few shishito peppers. 

• Went to the local farmers market most weekends and are on a first-name basis with many vendors there. 

• Perfected homemade peach ice cream. 

• Bought an above-ground pool and designed a deck around it. My older son and I swam almost every day the weather allowed (that’s a good many days in Texas). 

• Worked in too close quarters. They knew when I had a Zoom call, and I knew when they had a proctored test or a job interview. 

• Had a squat challenge on our back porch turned makeshift gym, harvested four Meyer lemons in the backyard we were ridiculously proud of, hosted family and friends outside with fans or heaters and a fire, whichever the weather required.  

• And, sometimes, we yelled at each other. I once literally followed two of them into the street in front of our house in an epic pandemic meltdown I hope the neighbors enjoyed as a brief distraction from the boredom.  

I had 320 bonus days with my kids

I had 320 bonus days of my boys living together as young adults in a way life normally doesn’t allow. And, sometimes for better/sometimes for worse, I got to do it as a single parent. I generally don’t envy single parents, although my husband and I used to joke when the kids were young that maybe we should split up so we could at least have every other weekend off. But being the single mom of two 20somethings without the financial concern of one income is mostly getting to do what you want and making all the rules.  

Then, suddenly, Noah and his girlfriend moved out. We all got vaccinated so my husband just moved back in, and his mom moved into an apartment eight minutes away. The longest and hardest year ended seemingly as abruptly as it began.  

We didn’t lose anybody. Only one close friend was hospitalized, and she’s fine. My mother-in-law is doing well post-cancer treatment and we successfully protected her from getting the virus. Our income was not affected by the economic crisis brought on by the global health crisis, and our marriage was strong enough to survive this separation.  

So my perspective is different than many. Although some days I felt I could not tolerate things one more minute — like babies waking up again at 2am or snarky teenagers being sassy AF at 2am — as soon as it was over, I was nostalgic.

Like with babies or teenagers, I don’t want a do over. But I will always look back with a smile and countless inside jokes at those magical, maddening 320 days of bonus time with my boys.  

More to Read:

Trey Kennedy Understands Every Mom On Lockdown

About DawnMcMullan

Dawn McMullan is a freelance writer/editor in Dallas, Texas. Her two sons are now 21 and 23, Sawyer in college and Noah starting his post-college career, and both interrupted empty nesting during the pandemic. Dawn helps run a non-profit in Eastern Congo and is senior editor at the International News Media Association. You can see more of her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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