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And He’s Off, I Think

In less than a month, my son is scheduled to leave for college for his freshman year. He worked his butt off in high school and I am thrilled he was accepted into the school of his choice. After Sheltering In Place with him for the last 4 months, I am ready for him to leave for college - REALLY. His irritability, testy responses and nocturnal existence is wearing me out. It’s time. Friends with older children have repeatedly reminded me “by the time they leave for college, you are ready to kick them out.” I am 99% there.

My son has been keeping himself busy the past few weeks by getting the things he needs for his dorm. He has even asked me to go with him to Target, Walmart and Bed Bath and Beyond. Masking up before entering a store, bringing our own disinfectant wipes to sanitize the carts, and decontaminating ourselves once we’ve left the store, has become our routine. I love that he has included me in his preparation, even asking for advice on what he will need at school. Progress comes in bits and pieces. He hasn’t accepted my Instagram request, I mean Finsta, so we have a bit of a ways to go. I’ll take what I can get. As we shopped, I thought back to my college years and marvel at all the changes. Now there are ingenious products and kits that could have made dorm life much easier when I was a student. I think back to the two duffle bags I was allotted. My dad, who did a brief stint in the Army, taught me how to pack my stuff Army style, all rolled up, pushing the bag to its limit, putting everything I owned into those bags. “If it doesn’t fit, you don’t need it”. And my father had the last word.

The idea of being away from my parents, of living on my own, and finding out who I was as an individual was intoxicating in more ways than one! (drinking age was 18 when I was a freshman). No longer would I be who my parents thought I was or the sidekick to my siblings. I was going to become the person I was supposed to be, without their influences. So, when I glance over at my son, so eager to finally head off to college, and unpack his dorm room, how can I deny him the opportunity to do the same? How can I not be excited for him? I’ve been waiting my whole life to find out which direction he will go. Until now.

As all of us grapple with our new reality of Covid taking over every part of our lives, I have to hit the pause button, and take several deep breaths before I make any rash decisions. I am fully cognizant that we may not be fully prepared, despite the best plans and intentions. The staggering numbers of increased infections are bewildering and I am constantly asking myself “Is it smart to willingly send him to college?” The more I hear about his age group being the largest to be infected with ‘the Rona’ the more I want to keep him home, have him bathe in Purell, wrap him up in bubble wrap and keep out of harm's way, until things get better.

After Sheltering In Place for four months, our state has experienced a huge uptick in infections. The concern is very real. The university in which he is enrolled, has made tremendous strides for the upcoming semester to be safe and productive, and on campus life will resume for their student body. The plan is comprehensive and addresses many “What If” scenarios. As I scoured the new student website seeking specifics about the “What Ifs”, I wondered if any Moms were consulted when putting this website together. My impression tells me otherwise.

Without having those answers, more questions arise and keep me up at night. I don’t think I will sleep restfully until my child safely returns home at the end of the semester. “What if my child gets “it”? Will they allow for parents to retrieve their sick child? And, if he tests positive, who is going to take care of him if he is too weak to take care of himself? I find it highly unlikely that the resident RA will be taking my kid’s temperature, providing food, or getting him to the hospital if things get worse. While I completely appreciate everything the school has undertaken to ensure the safety of its students, staff and faculty, I wonder if it is enough. The school has implemented safety protocols, re-designed how teachers teach, as well as designating two dorms for the “Exposed” and “Positive” cases. Thankfully they are providing a place where students can go when quarantining and riding out their illness.

The well implemented plans may not have factored in the reaction of worried and desperate parents. All I know is if my baby is sick with a severe case of CoronaVirus, I will move heaven and earth to ensure he is being well taken care of. As a person who has always prepared for the “What Ifs” with contingency plans, my hope is that college officials thought of everything, including several consultations with worried mothers.

Are other parents allowing their 18 year old to make the decision to head off to college? Have they limited their child’s social engagements like we have? This weighs on me heavily. Whether I like it or not, my child is 18 and considered an adult in the eyes of the law, and is allowed to make decisions for himself. He is going to college in 3 weeks. I have to believe that he will make smart and informed decisions about college life. I trust that my husband and I did the best we could, given the circumstances, to guide this young man in the right direction. He certainly understands the risks, clearly knows how to maintain social distancing (4 months and counting), and is empathetic of others health issues. Additionally, I can proudly say he exhibits exceptionally thorough decontamination practices. If he wasn’t capable of understanding the severity of the situation, then he wouldn’t be going off to college. And with that... he’s off.

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