Next week we’re sending two of our kids off to Boone for college. We’ve got a junior and a freshman this year, and we’re doing all the normal things parents do as the summer grows short: squaring away financial aid, shopping for clothes and supplies, anticipating the empty beds and unsettling quiet that will pervade the house once they’re gone.
But this is definitely not normal.
Coronavirus has already infiltrated our nation’s college campuses to such a degree that even to set foot on campus — any campus — involves a degree of risk.
Can we trust these kids to keep their hands clean, to wear masks everywhere they go, to keep their droplets to themselves?
The short answer: Probably not.
My children do not share the same libertine tendencies that I did when I was in school; engaging in risky behavior was one of the only reasons I wanted to go to college. But the odds are against them anyway: They’ll be clustered in classrooms, in dorms and apartments, in those tiny King Street restaurants and barrooms; they’ll be passing bongs and sharing bottles; they’ll never clean their video-game controllers; they’ll misplace all their masks within the first month. And if a romantic opportunity presents itself, I figure most of them are probably going to go for it.
The hard truth is that some of these kids are going to come down with COVID-19; it would be naïve to think otherwise. The even harder truth is that my kids might be among them. Probably not. But maybe. And what then?
It’s a scenario all parents of college students have run this summer. And everybody must cut their own deal.
Our kids are going to college. We decided it was important they keep moving forward, albeit cautiously, during these crucial years in their lives. Neither has an underlying condition. And both would otherwise be sitting in their room for the next six months. And that is no way to live.
That’s what we keep telling ourselves, anyway, my wife and me. We remember that they’re young and healthy, with no dangerous underlying conditions, that the school is taking serious precautions and that our kids have it way more together than I did at that age.
We’ve done this before. When the oldest left for college it left a jarring void in the household, and he doesn’t even talk that much. We know that poignant moment when we say goodbye and then drive off — or worse, when we get back home without them.
But now we’re scared, too.