My daughter Mackenzie came home in March of her senior year at Syracuse University and “graduated” in May. Like many other college students, her year was interrupted by COVID-19. It has been reported that an estimated 14 million college students were affected in early March 2020.
She was in her last semester, so she was ready for the “real world,” but that would have to wait while she finished her studies sitting on her bed. There would be no ceremony for her in the infamous Dome. Instead, she received something akin to a virtual nod that was uneventful except for the congratulatory display that her sisters Madison and Marissa put on with their decorations and food resembling the school’s colors. Mackenzie had graduated from the school of Computer Science and Engineering and the only one of her friends to have a job waiting for her.
The previous summer, she worked in New York City as a paid intern at CROWE, a global accounting and technology company, and had accepted a permanent position at Putnam Investments in Boston as an analyst. I was so proud of her but at the same time relieved that she wouldn’t be moving out right away because everyone was working remotely. So, she stayed home with her cat Rosie, named after her grandmother, and we settled into a very comfortable routine. Her older sisters were currently also under our roof, and surprisingly, everyone got along.
While there have been many articles and ongoing studies of how this all affected the mental health of students, Mackenzie didn’t seem to be sad, lonely, or devastated. After all, she had her whole family, including one dog, three cats, and a rabbit to keep her company. My husband Dave and I had not lost our jobs and were working at home as well. We also had an extra bedroom that I used as an office, but to make her more comfortable, I moved to the living room. The things parents do to keep their kids happy and at home!
Most people say good riddance 2020! I say, come back! The year was magical for my husband Dave and me. I had all my girls home, and life was good. Mackenzie had a few core friends – Garrett, Emily and Kate – who would join us every weekend for a dinner that I happily prepared. We have so many great memories of trying to make foods we love, like chicken and waffles, homemade bread, and creative cocktails. We played games, did puzzles and they even presented powerpoints on our first ‘Conspiracy Theory” night. I had all my chickens in the house, and I was very happy.
We were not the only family who felt that this pandemic had actually brought their families closer. As I spoke to other parents whose kids were older, they felt sad for their child’s lost time at school but were happy that everyone was under the same roof, if just temporarily.
Then Mackenzie started to look at rents dropping in Boston. She wanted to move on. Really at 22? Anyway, she signed a lease, and I moved her in last weekend. I am happy and excited for her to move to the city of my alma mater, Boston College, but I am not ready! My mom passed away in 2016 of pancreatic cancer, and I have no one to talk to about how she felt after I left for Junior year abroad to London with only 3 months’ notice or abruptly moved to Boston after I graduated.
How do you navigate a new normal when you bonded with over healthy eating and enjoyed them just being “there”? Luckily, I still have two “chicks” in my nest, but I know that they will soon “fly the coop” as well.
So now it’s my new normal. I try to accept it and realize that she is the result of my parenting, being confident, moving forward, and living life, courtesy of my Dad who always said, “he who dies with the most toys wins!” It’s hard, but I still text her a heart emoji at night or facetime, and she happily accepts. I try to cook the favorite dishes of my remaining daughters at home and savor the time they are here.
I don’t need to tell you all downsides of this pandemic. Still, I am clinging to the silver-linings and the time I have been able to spend with my family. All in all, we had a great 2020, who would have thunk?