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Instead of an "Empty-Nest Moon," a Quarantine Macarena on TikTok

Shari Bender

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Our lives as we know it have come to a screeching halt with the new #stayhome realities and, for many of us, that means empty nest is no more.

My son was a mid-year admit, so I became an empty nester in January, the thick of winter in upstate New York. Our plan after drop-off and parent orientation was to spend a couple days at a nearby casino. I had arranged for a neighbor to take care of the dog and pick up our mail.

After 27 years of marriage and 23 years raising kids, my husband and I were ready for our empty-nest moon. A weekend celebration just the two of us, of a job well done. Like a mini honeymoon. So exciting!

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

A winter storm alert came over the morning we were scheduled to leave — snow, big snow, was coming. And if we were going to get ahead of it and be at work on Monday, we were heading home.

I promptly booked a new weekend getaway for late March, when the weather was sure to cooperate. Our empty-nest moon was on a brief hold, no big deal.

Enter COVID-19.  Empty-nest moon now indefinitely on hold.

After enjoying only eight weeks of life as a college freshman, my son came home to quarantine. He’s been back for almost three weeks and it has been an interesting transition, to say the least.

A few things I’ve learned during our family's quarantine.

My 18-year-old son Joe might be a vampire.

The signs are all there. He sleeps during the day and is active at night. I am greeted in the morning by texts sent at 2 a.m.: “do you know where my bottom retainer is?” Who looks for their retainer at 2 a.m.?!

Also he’s been exercising a lot upstairs, and I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of him hanging upside down. Joe claims it’s a new yoga pose, “the bat,” but I’m skeptical. He doesn’t drink blood (that I know of), but he does seem to have an affinity for cranberry juice and red Gatorade these days. Probably just a coincidence? And I’m sure I've seen his reflection in the hall mirror at least once since he’s been home...

My son and I could have new careers as backup dancers.

@joebender123if this blows up we’ll do another one!!!! comment what you wanna see next ##fyp ##foryou ##boredathome ##ButterGlossPop♬ Macarena - Los Chamarones

In the wonderful world of TikTok, you can dance like nobody is watching, even when everyone is. I highly recommend this quarantine activity with your teen.

Ask them about it and watch their faces light up. In case you haven’t heard, TikTok is an app launched in 2017 used to create 15–60 second dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. Apparently, a mom doing the Macarena during a worldwide pandemic is entertaining. For me, it’s a fun way to exercise and share a much-needed laugh with my son.

My German Shepherd, Foxy, is a quarantqueen.

Dogs are true role models for us during this time. Foxy is handling the new restrictions in stride. She continues to be happy every single day. She finds beauty in the simplicity of a new stick and sits outside, relishing the rain falling on her back.

Foxy has embraced the Stay Home guidelines with full canine grace. She peeks at Max, her bestie English lab, next door through the fence and they wag tails in ever-present optimism. She sunbathes for hours, basking in the light and presence of a higher power. I am grateful for Foxy’s steady supply of companionship and for helping me embrace my inner canine feelings of contentment and gratitude for what I have at home.

This is our new normal and it’s hard. On everyone.

It’s okay to lament what was and what won't be. Allow yourself to grieve: for a freshman year in college cut short, a lost senior prom, your fantasy of the empty nest, a canceled vacation.

Then find the Chicken Dance on Spotify and, if for only a moment, forget the perils of the world and flap your wings with your kids. Because someday, our nests will be empty again.

College student Joe and his dog Foxy

Joe and Foxy, the Quaranteen and Quarantqueen

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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 more than 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.
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