College Drop Off in the Time of Covid

It’s not the kind of text you ever want to receive. I’m talking about the angry husband text that’s disguised as the nice husband text. The key words are, “not trying to be difficult . . .”

Oh my, those words are code for, “What were you thinking?”

Worse, the text came with a picture showing a multitude of tiny screws.

Uh oh, I did mess up. It seems the desk, dresser, and headboard I ordered for the bedroom of my daughter’s new college abode had more in common with a jigsaw puzzle than actual furniture.

Ugh. It was going to take hours to put this furniture together and I wasn’t one hundred percent certain that once it was assembled that it would be sturdy enough to withstand a door slamming.

Worse, maybe this was a sign that we made a horrible decision to allow our daughter to go back to college during the COVID terror in California of all places. Maybe all those baby screws represented our hearts breaking?

I was still very conflicted over acquiescing to my youngest child’s pleas to return to school. The university didn’t exactly make it easier. I felt like I was playing a shell game. The first cup was in person school, the second was hybrid and the third was virtual. These cups have never stopped swirling the entire summer. But the fact that virtual could move to hybrid sooner than later was my daughter’s strongest selling point about why she needed to be back at school.

Just getting her (and us) out to California was DefCon 1 anxiety inducing. The worst was being on a plane. I felt like I was writing a love letter to the coronavirus. I tripled masked, wore a shield and clutched a Ziploc bag of Clorox wipes so hard my carpel tunnel’s flared.

Fortunately, the airline was not messing around. It was a mask palooza and a plane full of empty seats. When we got to California it was super locked down. Indoor dining, bars, gyms, nail salons, malls etc. were all still closed. It was also the land of a free drive thru rapid response COVID test on every corner.

As I was pondering getting a test because I always wonder if I’m asymptotic my husband sent me another text, “Why don’t we just buy real furniture? You know the kind that doesn’t come in a million pieces.”

That text was easy to answer because I went for my husband’s Achilles heel – fiscal responsibility. I wrote back, “Well, we’ve already paid for this furniture and you can’t ship it back. Besides “real” furniture would be three times the price.”

That shut down the text conversation. But it didn’t shut down my fears. It’s never easy leaving a child at college but the coronavirus has turbo charged my list of worst-case scenarios. My chest hurt and it wasn’t from COVID-19.

When I returned from Target bearing bags full of bathroom supplies I walked into my child’s college bedroom and saw my husband and daughter diligently working as a team to put her furniture together.

The scene made me smile and eased the ache in my chest. You can’t bubble wrap an emerging adult but you can let them know that you’ll always be there to help them figure out how to build furniture and their lives – no matter the number of pieces.

The Uhaul Years

Twenty-one years ago I thought being what the doctors called an AMA mom was no big deal. I admit to being a little taken aback when I was first referred to as “Advanced Maternal Age.” It was one of those “Who you talking about?” moments.

How could I be on the cusp of being too old to have a baby? I felt fabulous. So fabulous I was ready to throw down with any non-AMA mom to prove it.

Today, I couldn’t throw down with anyone or anything because I can barely get out of bed.

Being an older parent forces you to reflect on a lot of things. There’s the really depressing stuff as in you’ll have less time with your children because you’ll be dead. But, I always worked that to my advantage.

When my husband would freak out over the toys and other goodies I would buy I would pathetically reply, “It’s not like I’m going to live to see grandbabies. I have to spoil them because they’re twofers – kids and grandkids.”

That personal pity party worked for a while until we had problems walking through our home due to all the Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Finally, I had to acknowledge that my excuse was lame and quite possibly life threatening because those trains created dire tripping hazards.

Other worries being an older mom range from vanity to losing your youthful zeal. I was mistaken for being my children’s grandmother enough times for it to sting. Of course, this only happened in Texas where the average age of having your first child is 17. (Okay, I made that up, but it’s not 35 I can tell you that and there are people I want to high school with that have grandkids my daughter’s age. So there’s some empirical evidence for you.)

As for youthful zeal that was never much of a concern. I’ve always been high energy until a couple of days ago when being AMA finally bit me in the butt because there’s one thing missing in the all documents your doctor gives you to read concerning the downsides of being an older parent and it’s this: You’ll be moving a child in and out of dorms and second and third floor college apartments and it might kill you.

I consider myself a strong-ish person. Not to brag, but I have mad skills as in I can bench press a 50 pound bag of dog food and by that I mean haul it out of my car. So, I wasn’t that concerned about my son’s latest move out of one apartment and into another.

This was a fatal mistake.

I blame the stairs. They were deadly. The steps at apartment #1 were mountain goat steep and they were also crumbling. This upped the degree of difficulty because not only were you navigating basically the side of a cliff you were also perilously close to wiping out on concrete rubble. Now imagine walking backwards down these stairs holding the end of a desk that felt like it weighed as much as a Ford F-150.

Once you completed that strength and agility course it was on to apartment #2. Here wooden stairs with a plethora of nails sticking out greeted you. It was as if they were chanting, “I hope you’ve had a recent Tetanus booster.” Having to lug a full size mattress up and up the stairs while leaping over nails made the journey seem like you were playing hopscotch with one of Satan’s minions.

I cursed. I almost cried and then I did cry when my health app on my phone showed I had walked 103 flights of stairs. The next day I had the mobility of a Popsicle stick. I felt like I needed a new hip.

Next year my daughter will be going off to college. This means double the move ins and outs. I hope I survive it. If you see a woman walking while hauling a mattress on her back it will be this AMA cross training for the fall of 2018