My college student came home for the summer in the usual way: with the contents of her dorm room—from mini fridge to shower brush—crammed into every available space in her hand-me-down sedan and our small SUV.
But she did not come at the usual time or for the usual reason. She came home for the summer when it was barely spring, and she brought all her still-in-use textbooks with her. She was done with classes on campus, but classes were not done with her, not by a long shot.
Her dad and I brought our load ahead of her, and when she walked in the door, I hugged her in consolation, not congratulation. Her face told me she was glad to be home but not at that time or under those circumstances.
She set up her laptop and got back to work almost right away.
Her high school-junior sister is home, too, under similar circumstances. If I need to find her in the house, I can pretty much bank on her being in her room, on her bed, leaning against the wall, her computer open on her lap. When she comes downstairs in the morning at a much later time than on a usual school day, I don’t greet her with the enthusiasm once reserved for snow days and other typical days off.
It’s not that I’m not happy to see her; it’s just that I know she is not full-on happy to be here.
Most of the time, my children are not where they’re supposed to be now. They should be in classrooms or in a dorm room or in a gymnasium or at a dance studio or at a friend’s house or at the library or on the road driving between these places.
Being home right now is hard for them (“hard” not being a competitive sport…clearly, there are much harder versions of it out there these days). My students are still doing their jobs with excellence and commitment, but in much more laborious ways and without the encouragement and stress-relief of in-person interactions with friends and teachers.
So I don’t love the reasons my children are home. But I do so love having them here.
This is why I love having my teens home
- I love glancing out the window at both their cars parked in the driveway.
- I love seeing all their coats hanging by the back door.
- I love hearing the sound of their voices laughing and shouting together. (The Wii has recently been resurrected for study-break purposes, and the competition is fierce.)
- I love sitting at the kitchen table with every seat taken, eating full-on dinners at normal dinner hours. It’s been a solid decade since this happened with any regularity, and the fact it will probably never happen regularly again makes me appreciate the gift of it in spite of my jacked-up grocery bill and ALL THE DISHES (which, yes, someone else can do them).
- I love being a sounding board for my children’s work. “Does this make sense?” my high-schooler asked about her speech on communication methods utilized in her possible future career. (It sounded perfect, and that wasn’t because of mom bias.) “Can you help me come up with an introductory set for my lesson on sight and sound words?” my early childhood/early elementary ed major asked…and then told me my idea was “brilliant.” (Score one for mom.
- I love getting advance-screenings of my students’ projects. The other day, I saw a video snippet of a stunning modern dance, heard a compelling book talk, and oohed and aahed over the most adorable paper-bag puppets ever.
- I love that I can do some things for my children while they do the things only they can do.
- I love that I can hug them (hugs being a rare commodity these days). I love that I can tell my big kids I love them without needing a phone. I love that I can gauge how they’re doing without having to interpret a text. I love that though I often can’t do anything about the hard pieces of their lives right now, I can listen while they pound them out.
- I love this bonus time with my rising high-school senior, who’s eyeing a college ten hours away. I love losing sleep staying up with her watching my old favorite movies that are quickly becoming her new favorites.
- I love that when I go to sleep, my phone can be off, because all the people I normally leave it on for are just down the hall.
Having my children home means I know where they are, and I know they are safe. It means I have the chance to do what I can to smooth the edges of a life that has gotten raggedy. It means we can ride out this storm together.
But because it’s hard for them to be here now, when the time finally comes for me to let my big kids go again, I’ll do it with gratitude. I’ll send them out to their new-normal lives and look forward to days in the future when they walk through the door for Christmas or summer vacation or show up in my living room on a snow day. Then, I’ll hug them without restraint and be glad that their being home is once again easy and everything it’s supposed to be.
More to Read:
It’s Hard to Find the Right Thing to Say So I’ll Just Say “I’m So Sorry”
Graduation: Names Will Be Called, Diplomas Awarded, and Social Distance Observed, Another Brilliant Idea