My son is halfway out the door when I scream his name and ask where he is going. He is going to his friend’s house down the street. He tells me like it’s no big deal. Usually, it is no big deal. But times are different now, I tell him. We are supposed to be social distancing.
I explain to my 18-year-old that I don’t want him to go inside the home and I don’t want him within six feet of his friend or his friend’s brothers, who likely will come outside too. “The country is on lockdown and we have to social distance,” I remind him.
My son gives me the blow off, the verbal okay with the body language that says I am not really listening to you. I double down and tell him these are no ordinary times but he says “I know mom” and races out the door.
Like the rest of the country, my family has been at home for the last five weeks, rarely leaving the house. This seems to be most difficult for my son who was in his freshman year of college and had just pledged a fraternity. He came home for spring break and his university announced students were not to come back. His belongings are still in his dorm room and it took at least a week for him to fully comprehend he was not going back this school year.
The first week my son was home he asked to go to his friend’s beach house and told me there would only be two other people there. My daughter suspected a party was in the works. She yelled at him and told him he was putting the whole family at risk for getting the coronavirus by being around a bunch of other kids. After a day or two of both of us arguing about it with him, and his insisting there would only be two others there, she gave up and I did too. He still insists there were only two kids there and they stayed six feet apart.
As the virus has spread, I have tried harder to explain to my son what’s at risk and why his social life needs to be a low priority right now. I have encouraged him to do group calls on Zoom with his pledge class and one night the whole family agreed to play beer pong to replicate the college scene.
This week my son takes his online finals. And then what? I am preparing for him to make me really crazy.
I have seen Twitter posts and video clips online of frustrated moms trying to keep their teens at home and ending up in shouting matches. I take some comfort from that, from knowing I am not alone. Social distancing is hard for all of us but teens were used to being around friends all day and socializing is an important part of their lives. They are not little kids that rely on mom and dad to make decisions for them and they are not adults who fully get the big picture because their brains aren’t wired that way.
So, as a mom, I am picking my battles and compromising when and where possible. I am giving my son a little wiggle room to go to a friend’s house, to stay outside and at a six-foot distance. But that’s all. One friend. One house. As much as I used to want ours to be the hangout house, I don’t want that right now.
Despite this frustration with my son, I am enjoying quality time with my three kids that I never had before and likely won’t get again. My very social 18-year-old typically is never home even when he isn’t away at college. He’s always bolting out the door to go somewhere. So, having everyone gathered around the family dinner table every night is a dream come true.
With everyone under one roof all the time, I’m pretty sure mothers like me around the country are looking for the silver lining, trying to stay sane, getting creative and staying grateful for all we can during these times.
Hang in there parents of teens! And if you’ve made any compromises with your teen, I’d love to hear about it.