My College:
Family Life

6 Useful Things I've Learned in 6 Weeks in Quarantine

Shari Bender

My college freshman came home to quarantine just over six weeks ago. We’ve finally settled into somewhat of a routine, but it hasn’t been easy.

Family sing-a-longs have been the exception, not the norm around here. Okay, so we haven’t had one family sing-along yet, but with New York on pause for at least another few weeks, it is entirely possible that we might.

This crisis has been teaching us really heavy life lessons, but here are six lighter things I’ve learned in six weeks in quarantine.

Re-branding helps eliminate culinary fatigue.

Most of us have stopped making Michelin star quality dinners every night. Tossing all those veggies left in the fridge into a generic “Vegetable soup”? Cue teen eye roll. Same soup next week re-branded as Country Tuscan Minestrone and you will be lauded as a culinary genius.

Mac and cheese again? Not in my house. Only the finest petite elbow pasta with three cheese sauce. Amazing how sprinkling shredded cheese on a boring pantry staple can jazz up your eats.

Have fruit on its way out? Slice up that bruised apple or shriveled orange and add it to water to create a burst of flavored hydration. Then snap a picture of that fruit H2O and caption it “Mood.”

Messes don’t clean themselves.

I really thought if I left the wrinkled dryer sheet on the floor (the one that leapt out of the clean laundry pile on my way to the bedroom), it would somehow find its way to the garbage.

I watched my husband and son both avoid that little sheet like it was hot lava.

I left the Scrubbing Bubbles on my teen son’s bathroom sink, hoping he would get the hint. He did not. I found the aerosol can returned to the hall closet within hours. Not sure if my son put it back, or if the Scrubbing Bubbles fled the scene in trepidation.

All Zoom meetings are not created equal.

Am I the only one on family Zoom who heard the mumble-under-the breath from someone who mistakenly left their audio on? And Zoom exercise? The delay of the music has me dancing in a totally different direction than my instructor at the exact moment that I become the main screen.

If you’re looking for Zoom gold, try photobombing your teen’s next Zoom social hour. And definitely change your Zoom background; nothing says quarantine fun like a tropical island backdrop.

Old towels are new again.

My college bath towel from 1989 has re-invented itself as four dishtowels. Old towels stacked in the hall closet are now our paper towel substitutes.

And the cloth napkins I saved from 1998 in a box labeled “cloth napkins” — the ones I kept in the pantry on the very top shelf “just in case” — finally came in handy. No paper napkins no problem. Cloth napkins for every meal saves the earth and saves money, too. Plus, using a cloth napkin just makes everything fancier in quarantine chic.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Everything in moderation, of course. But let’s face it — day and night can be a blur for those of us with teens keeping vampire hours. So why not the occasional “it’s 5 p.m. somewhere” afternoon imbibe?

Schedule a weekend social distance happy hour with your neighbors — mix it up with a Mimosa morning with the girls, or perhaps even better (Google it) “Breakfast sangria.” For those working at home, try putting water in a wine glass to give your at-home workspace a celebratory after-work vibe.

Pets make wonderful teachers for people of all ages.

Amid the global pandemic our dog Foxy is still so joyful, every single day. She finds happiness in a new stick and never complains about staying home. Our cats find the sunny spots — even the tiniest ray in an otherwise gloomy day. These are lessons you just can’t get from an online classroom.

I'm sure there will be many more things to learn moving through this crisis. In the meantime, feel free to hit me up for your next Zoom happy hour. Virtual Cheers!

Blogger Shari Bender has water in a wineglass for a virtual happy hour during quarantine


Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children, Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest along with her husband of nearly 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Deborah Adamkin
Deborah Adamkin
1 year ago

Love this Shari!

Ray Teague
Ray Teague
1 year ago

Great read Shari...please video the family sing-along and post it. 🎤

Marla Johnston
Marla Johnston
1 year ago

Love this! All so true.

1 year ago

Lo que me gusta de este artículo es el espíritu positivo del pueblo americano que siempre saca lecturas positivas de situaciones complicadas. Shari como siempre lo muestra con un enfoque divertido e inteligente.

  • Holiday Gift Guide Ipad Phone

    Our holiday shopping list is full of awesome ideas that are on trend with what students desire this gift-giving season.

    Click Here to Download

  • Find Your University

    Don't Miss Out!

    Get engaging stories and helpful information all year long. Join our college parent newsletter!

    Subscribe Today