This week I received a blast email from Hope’s college president explaining the institution’s decision-making regarding coming back to campus. It was like 5 paragraphs long, and in my opinion, the major takeaway is that it’s very unlikely that Hope will be returning to in person classes in the spring semester.
I think it is the right public health decision. Her school is very small, less than 1,000 students, and while it is well resourced it simply can’t mount the surveillance protocols necessary to do routine testing and quarantines. It’s disappointing that they don’t, but most of the schools in my state, including the very large ones, do not have the ability to do it either. So, it’s definitely the right health decision.
Socially, I fret a bit about Hope’s continued development. She has always struggled with cultivating friendships, but at school she had settled in with a nice group of kids and seemed to really be developing good relationships. She was also getting more engaged in extracurricular programs. Academically, she still had some challenges, but I was delighted that she was doing well socially. I was starting see some wonderful developments, and then COVID-19 happened.
And now, our world is a lot smaller. The whole of this time home I’ve quietly fretted about what this loss of time will mean for Hope and other young people like her.
For my part, I am constantly engaging people, often to the point where I have little desire to engage after work hours. Even still, I regularly schedule happy hours and chats with family and friends so that I can get a bit of my extrovert energy boost.
Hope didn’t take to online chat fests where her school friends. Having a job helped a lot; she was able to meet folks and develop some social relationships. I had really resisted letting her work during the school year, but honestly, I feel like she needs the outlet. Overall, I’ve seen Hope regress back to the small world she’s had for most of our time together. I worry that not being in a space where she can really practice socially will really be harmful the long run.
As a parent, honestly, I have so many worries. Our recent crisis, which frankly isn’t over we’re just in a period of stasis, taught me a lot about my own fears. It taught me that some of those fears are well founded and that others are less so. It’s also taught me that parenting this period of early adulthood has some really unique challenges. I want Hope to be independent, but what that looks like the middle of pandemic is a bit of a mystery. I want her to develop healthy relationships, but there are some specific vulnerabilities that worry me and again—what does that look like during this time? When the risks of getting sick, spreading the virus and frankly possibly killing someone, figuring out what’s allowable while still giving some space and grace seems really complicated.
Adding to all of this is that several months ago I decided that I would try my hand at dating again. It’s been a slow, cautious endeavor, and I’m not even sure it’s been the right decision. I don’t go out much; I try to focus on talking and connecting a lot. Dating was always complicated and now it just feels moreso. I’m also stuck trying to figure out if me stepping out to date is fair to Hope.
I just don’t know.
With each week, I think we all feel the isolation and limitations a bit more. I’m trying to be optimistic about what will happen over these next couple of years with me and Hope. I mean, I believe we will weather this storm, but I do wondering if/how much collateral damage this pandemic will leave us with when it’s all over. What social skills am I losing and what skills is Hope being prevented from developing? Will we feel safe traveling and having adventures again? What is going to happen next in a year that honestly feels like a colossal dumpster fire?
I just don’t know, and well, this part of my parenting journey feels a bit like a black hole. I just don’t know what’s next. I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic, but I’m also a realist and I worry about our health, safety, mental health and overall wellbeing.