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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MONTHLY MEDITATION – Quarantined with a Twenty-Year-Old College Student

As time starts to morph the longer our “Stay at Home” Order is in place, the more I’ve begun to analyze just how dysfunctional my Son and I can be.

OR, should I say, just how challenging living with a twenty-year-old college student really can be.

Granted he’s home on breaks, but that’s just it, a break. During those times I’m working full time, and so is he if it’s a summer or winter break, and our evenings and weekends are our time to hangout, which works out wonderfully.

The present situation is completely different.

I’m sort of laid off, but he has classes, or should I say class work. None of his teachers are using Zoom on a regular basis. He just has assignments to be completed by a certain date.

This leaves plenty of leverage when it comes to creating a schedule for my Son’s days, as I’ve suggested he do. I’m one who can’t stand seeing a day go to waste and want to use this time at home productively.

So for me creating a basic schedule allows me to break up my day and take time to write, work on unfinished house projects and explore other interests, or even just read. A luxury I don’t usually have time for.

Continue reading “MONTHLY MEDITATION – Quarantined with a Twenty-Year-Old College Student”

Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting

Parenting is a funny thing. 

When your child is young you need to be involved in every step along the way.

As they hit middle school years, you need to start stepping back; giving them the space they need to start maneuvering their world on their own.

By high school you need to be watching from the sidelines. It’s sink or swim time preparing for college.

The irony though is, if you’re too involved, you can be accused of being a “helicopter mom.”

AND

If you step back too much, you can be accused of not caring.

You’re constantly walking a fine line between over-stepping and under-stepping.

As my Son was growing up, I was by no means a “helicopter mom.” I was what I classified as his advocate.

An advocate he desperately needed at times.

Continue reading “Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting”