The Toll of Quarantine on My College Student Son

March 13, 2021 marked one year since I brought my Son home from college for what was only suppose to be two weeks. 

A year later he is still home, taking all his classes virtually.

AND, my how things have changed.

When the COVID pandemic was not yet classified a pandemic, but things were escalating daily, my anxiety levels were also escalating, especially because my Son was away at school. I feared the US would go into lockdown and he would be stuck there. 

As a fan of “The Walking Dead” every end of world scenario was playing out in my mind.

How would I get my Son home if we were in lockdown? What covert operation would I have to pull off? Would I have to dodge law enforcement or the military? Would I be fined if I was caught?

The Walking Dead Characters locked, loaded and ready for action – courtesy of AMC

Granted, some of this is extreme, but a year ago so much was up in the air that anything imaginable crossed my mind.

SO, when the school sent out the plans to send students home for an extended Spring Break I was beyond relieved. No covert operation would be needed. I could pick my Son up in a somewhat normal fashion.

Once he was home I didn’t care what happened, as long as he was home with me. If the world fell apart we’d face it together, just like Rick and Carl.

Rick and Carl facing the end of the world together – courtesy of AMC

And face it we did.

When my Son first got home, I was still working full-time in the office, coming home strung out because I had no clue if I was exposed to the virus. Within a week though the Stay-At-Home Orders were put in place in our state and the official lockdown began. 

Being told I had to stay home and not venture out into the virus-infested world was a huge relief, and an order I was grateful to abide by. We’d make due with what we had and when we ran out of something figure it out then. 

The true test would be how my Son and I handled being home all day, every day with just each other. 

I had finally adjusted to being by myself after a rough Freshman year, and my Son had gotten comfortable with his on-campus college student lifestyle.

He was becoming more independent and he liked it. His visits home up to this time were always relaxed and playful because that’s just what they were meant to be. Breaks from the college workload to refresh and recharge for the next semester.

AND, of course Mom would dote on him because that’s what Mom’s do when their kids come home from college.

Now however, he would be taking classes from home and I would be working from home. Nothing at all like a normal home visit for a college break. 

Add to it, we both had to share the loft where our computers were.

Needless to say it was a bit of an adjustment, but some how we made it work. His irregular class schedule and my flexibility with work hours certainly helped.

Plus I was only home full time for about a month before I was going back into the office a couple times a week which eventually led to full time again by May.

One of my biggest challenges came when I was trying to focus and my Son would decide that’s when he wanted to give me an update on something related to a class, or even just something silly he read and thought I’d enjoy.

Prior to this it was a none-issue because I wasn’t doing work related things at home. BUT, now it mattered, so I had to find a delicate way to let him know it was not a good time and not offend him because I certainly wanted to know about school.

Note, my Son is very random when it comes to informing me about personal things or school, so I have learned over the years to pause when he gets in the mood to talk. No matter when that may be.

The last thing I wanted was to have him think I didn’t care and stop randomly spilling what’s on his mind.

Considering the fact that he still does this, I can say I did not offend him, and we’re all good it that department.

The other key thing at play with my Son home full-time again was and still is the general dynamics between the two of us.

Our relationship as parent and child has been evolving since my Son was a teen, and took on a whole new level when he went away to college. At college, he was maturing and learning to be more independent, and I was concerned being forced to move back home full-time could do some damage in that area.

Something I most certainly didn’t want to see happen.

So I have tried hard to give him space, within limits though, because after all he is still at home under my roof.

There had to be some rules. Like helping Mom with kitchen duties. Something he got out of while in high school, but not now. It was only fair considering I was back to doing more cooking on a regular basis.

When I contracted COVID in late January, my Son had no choice but to step up his game in this area, and I can say he has done it without complaining which is major sign of maturity. 

In the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, because we were both so consumed by what was going on with the pandemic, and my work ours were not consistent, there was a lot of fluidity with household dynamics.

BUT, once my hours went back to full-time and my Son was back working part-time at a local grocery store, I quickly realized our relationship was evolving into a whole new phase

The dynamics between the two of us was becoming one of true camaraderie, with a buddy-like quality, and a real sense of respect for each other. Something I happily welcomed and was excited to experience. Were there hiccups, of course, but overall things were changing for the good.

Summer hike in the Poconos

Because of this new-found camaraderie I noticed my Son more willing to open up about his emotions when dealing with being home. Which I was beyond grateful for because otherwise I would not have realized the toll quarantine was actually taking on him.

One of the biggest issues he addresses was a feeling of apathy, and lack of motivation. He noted that at least he was getting his class work done.

Apparently a lot of friends have not been.

As my Son told me the extended virtual learning was taking a toll on everyone he spoke with.

The lack of in-person classes and “real” on-campus life was hindering their desire to perform to the best of their ability. AND this was coming from friends who were actually on campus, but had at least half of their classes still virtual.

Once he told me all of this, I started to better understand some of his not so normal behavior.

My Son has always been a bit of a night owl, and would sleep in as often as he could, which is pretty normal for teens and college students. BUT, things were escalating to the point where he’d be up all night and sleep all day whenever he didn’t need to be up for classes. AND sometimes even when he did have classes. 

This concerned me because how could he be prepared for class if he crawled out of bed 5 minutes before class. Plus be alert enough to actually participate.

And to add to all of this, my Son had finally gotten his computer moved to the basement over Winter Break so he had more seclusion and privacy, which only amplified the night owl problem.

Prior to the move, he was right outside my bedroom in the loft so I could hear him, which meant I could keep tabs on him and make him accountable for his time. Something he didn’t really like.

Although he’s holding his own with classes, despite an issue with one class that’s tied to the instructors, he’s spending the bare minimal of time on his classwork, but certainly spending plenty of time gaming, and watching Anime or stupid videos on YouTube. If he’s not in front of his computer, he’s got his phone and is watching stupid videos there.

Again, I know this is pretty standard for a college kid, but for my Son it’s excessive. It’s most certainly a means of escape.

He’s always spent a lot of time online with friends, either gaming or just BS’ing, but he’d also spend just as much time socializing with his friends in-person, especially on campus.

SO, taking the personal one-on-one side out of the equation was rearing it’s ugly head.

At least when he’s working he gets some one-on-one time with co-workers and customers, but because of the amount of writing one of his classes required he decided to not work during this semester, which just added to the seclusion problem.

I’ve told him his behavior is a sign of depression, and he’s aware of it. YET, he’s making limited effort to break free of the hold the quarantine has on him, which is what concerns me.

In general he seems fine, but because he has no reason to leave the house, and has limited commitments, he’s left to just flounder. 

He is not very self-motivated, which is another issue for another post, so although there are many things he could be doing with his time, he chooses to do nothing

I toss out ideas, and make suggestion to help lift him out of his funk, but he dismisses the ideas, even when he knows it’s on him to make the change.

When he was away at college, living on campus, he was starting to get more organized with his time, plotting his days out, prioritizing tasks, etc… He was learning to create structure and order to his days. Even motivated to venture forth beyond his comfort zone.

Last performance with jazz band a week prior to coming home

NOW, all bets are off 

At least he’s getting his schoolwork done, which I have to be grateful for. And, the classes the back half of this semester seem to be more engaging, which seem to be helping his overall mood a little.

BUT, next semester is his senior year and I fear what this extended time at home has done to his overall growth. I’m hoping once he’s vaccinated and can be back on campus, he will be able to pick up where he left off, but until then, I will do my best to help him break free from his quarantine funk.

I will need to find ways to make him more accountable for his time every day. What that is I don’t know yet, BUT if he has to answer to someone other than himself about how he spends his days, maybe that will help.

This is all very new for me.

Usually my Son has had so much schoolwork, and extracurricular activities that I was not concerned about his “veg out time.” I knew he needed it as a means to recharge so I didn’t worry.

Now however all this “veg out time” is doing the opposite.

It’s slowly burning out all the stored charge that motivated my Son to succeed. Apathy is winning and despite still being in a pandemic I have to find a way to reverse this course and get my Son back on track for I hope and pray will be his best year of college, his Senior year! 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

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MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Finding Purpose When Classified Non-Essential

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had major mixed emotions about falling into the category of “non-essential.”

On one hand I’m grateful I can stay at home, and limit my time out of the house to trips for essentials.

BUT, on the other hand I feel guilty and wish I had more of a purpose other than to be at home.

Continue reading “MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Finding Purpose When Classified Non-Essential”

The NEW Business As Usual

When I first started writing this post the world was on the fringes of falling apart. Were there signs of anxiety here on the East Coast of the US, sure, but the first cases of the coronavirus in the states were few, and although I was cautiously concerned, I was trying to live life business as usual.

That all changed suddenly when the first cases showed up in Pennsylvania, the state I live in, and quickly started popping up more and more across the country.

Then the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, and the daily dynamics changed, and so did the behavior of the general public.

Chicken Little came to cry, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Now I am certainly not trying to lessen the severity of the situation, but the behavior of a large portion of the human race was certainly one of histrionics.

And to be honest it caught me off guard.

Continue reading “The NEW Business As Usual”

An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

Back in May I took a retirement planning class. It was informative and overwhelming at the same time. Fortunately part of the price included two very detailed workbooks, which have come in handy as I unravel all the details taught. 

In addition, they offered two free consultations with the planner who taught the class. It was those consultations that turned out to be even more beneficial than the class.

WHY?

The planner was a wealth of information beyond retirement planning. He became the source of inspiration I needed to believe my dream of turning writing into my retirement plan was and is valid and possible.

To have someone who spends their days with their head in the world of investments and numbers believe that something creative was a tangible prospect for my future blew my mind. On the numbers side of things, he did have me write a business plan and included that in the retirement plan we discussed at my second appointment.

BUT, it was the wealth of resources he passed on beyond that that became the spark I needed to ignite my plan for the future.

Continue reading “An Unlikely Source of Inspiration”

Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

Continue reading “Signs of Growth”

Medical Catch 22

Aging is a process not for the faint of heart. 

In our teens and twenties we seem invincible. 

During our thirties we might start to see some grays and faint wrinkles, but overall we generally feel pretty good. 

Even our forties aren’t that bad. Might start to feel the start of some achy arthritic joints, and see more grays and wrinkles, but overall we’re still feeling pretty peppy.

Then the fifties hit and things really start to change, at least for me they did. Maybe not right away, but by my mid-fifties I could feel myself slowing down.

Part of the slowing down process is certainly tied to Hashimotos, an autoimmune disorder involving chronic inflammation of the thyroid. Over time, the ability of the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones often becomes impaired and leads to a gradual decline in function and eventually an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism).

I was diagnosed with Hashimotos in 2010 at the age of 49 after a bout with pneumonia that went sepsis and wrecked havoc with my entire body.

Medication was not and still is not an option because my thyroid levels remain within normal range. Even after having half my thyroid removed last fall because of a suspicious nodule.

The nodule was benign Thank God, so the threat of cancer was removed from the equation. Amen to that!

With meds out of the question, I knew I had to find other methods to combat the symptoms of hypothyroidism. The key symptoms being fatigue, weight gain and brain fog.

I discovered doctors were not very helpful when it came to advice in this area and found out quickly I was on my own.

Coincidently around the same time, I caught an interview with Gina Lee Nolin, of Baywatch fame, where she discussed her personal health struggles that went undiagnosed until she found Dr. Alan Christianson, a naturopathic medical doctor for Integrative Health in Scottsdale. His book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease” became my saving grace. 

https://www.facebook.com/thyroidsexy/

After reading Dr. Christianson’s book, I started to play with diet changes and adding supplements. In doing so, I was able to thwart off some of the fatigue, weight gain and some brain fog.

The key thing was going gluten and dairy free. Plus avoiding soy and fluoride, which can interfere with the function of the thyroid. I also added ginkgo biloba and ashwaghanda, but my endocrinologist recommended I stop the ashwaghanda because it can skew thyroid function blood tests.

Over the years I have faired pretty well with this issue, but honestly I think I was too busy raising my Son and helping to care for my aging Mom to completely feel the impact. Or, should I say take the time to notice. 

It’s only the past year or two, as I hit my late fifties and my Son is off at college that I’ve truly noticed how much I’m slowing down. My energy levels just aren’t what they used to be. Some of it’s age, but I know part of it is my thyroid. 

This however is the least of my concerns. 

Continue reading “Medical Catch 22”

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

Continue reading “Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years”

Finding Peace in Every Day

With my annual exodus to the beach to recharge my soul now behind me, I’m working hard at carrying the calm that comes from the sea air and surf with me as I face each day in the real world.

As I told a co-worker “I’m trying hard to hang onto my vacation shine.”

This is something I tell myself I’m going to do every year, but a month or two into the real world post vacation I’m working my way back into the “when is my next day off mind-set.”

I don’t mean the weekend; I mean an actual vacation day, a day with no real schedule, a day to play.

Like a day off is the cure all for the every day stresses we all endure. Granted it helps, but there has to be a way to find peace throughout every day, not just on a vacation day. Especially when they’re so few and far between.

Continue reading “Finding Peace in Every Day”