My College:
Family Life

Spring Semester Means It's Time for Mom-Solidarity

Shari Bender

Dear Fellow College Parent,

Now that 2020 is behind us and the vaccine is being rolled out, everything is all better.

Not so fast. But if you are a parent of a teen or young adult, this may be their outlook as they dive into spring semester and 2021.

The computer glitches have been solved and the remote learning curve has been attained. But as a parent of a college sophomore, I can attest that remote college learning has been less than ideal.

A year in (wow, yes, it’s been almost a year), my 19-year-old son is in the hybrid class and online assignment groove. The dreaded 8 a.m. class? No longer dreaded, since all classes are recorded and Joe can log in for his 8 a.m. at 11 p.m.

I worry what remote learning has done to my son, and to all college kids. As a spring admit, his freshman year started January 2020. A mere eight weeks later the world imploded and he was sent home.

How do you learn to be on time when attendance is a matter of rolling out of bed and turning on your computer, if live attendance is required at all?

How do you learn true collaboration if your partner is many miles (or even time zones) away, through a screen which cannot truly capture the emotion and energy of an in-person meeting?

The good news is kids have the amazing resilience to adapt and even thrive under challenging circumstances.

But this crisis is not over yet.

We still must maintain vigilance and protect our vulnerable populations and ourselves until the vaccine is as ubiquitous as the flu shot. And normalcy will not be restored until we have this virus under control.

This means that we — and our thinly stretched college kids — need to hang in there a little longer.

Many of our teens have seen their friends get and recover from COVID-19. As much as we try and explain the real dangers to them, the rational part of a teenager’s brain isn’t fully developed, and according to the experts won’t be until around the age of 25.

It doesn’t matter if your child attends an Ivy League institution or how well they scored on their standardized tests. It doesn’t matter if they've held a steady job or are an outstanding member of their ROTC program. Good judgment is an inherent weakness of all teens.

So is all hope lost? How do we get our teens on board?

We all know that one “perfect” family whose children toe the party line and act in accordance with their parents’ wishes. I am not one of those families. I struggle with some of my teen’s pandemic choices. But as he indicated in one of our most recent text exchanges (edited for readability), “Mom. I’m going to live my life. My modifications have been sustainable and I am happy currently with life.”

Joe tells me I’m still living in March 2020 with my anxiety levels at an all-time high. I obsessively scour the news and see the numbers in my state at their highest, despite widespread mask orders.

I recently read on Facebook (so it must be true!) that a “Being a Mom of Big Kids is a whole lot of keeping our mouths shut and our hearts wide open.” This is true, albeit a lot harder in the age of The Rona, as the kids call it.

My son has been following all the state guidelines, but it is not to the Stay-at-Home level that makes me feel comfortable. He recently informed me that he is blocking me from his social media stories. I can’t blame him really. His post of an art piece from a socially distant, limited-capacity and masked art gallery visit turned into a 10-minute Mom lecture about "COVID is still a risk!!"

A recent Zoom chat with a friend across the country who also has a teenage son mirrored my sentiments. We cannot control our adult children; we must learn to listen and adapt and find a path forward. And that can be stressful — very stressful — at times.

We may not have all the answers, but at least we are not alone.

In Mom-solidarity,

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.

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