Having a child in college who is learning remotely is like a never-ending Gobstopper — never knowing what each layer will result in. In one layer, it’s all sugar-coated goodness. Then, the next is sour. Sometimes, it’s that neutral layer where all is well. As a parent of a freshman, some days, I just want to spit it out.
My child, whom one moment I see as my baby and then the next moment I’m wondering who this adult is in my home, really struggles some days. She wonders and worries if she will ever make real friends and stop feeling so distant. There’s only so much connectedness that can be achieved from behind a screen. Therefore, she questions if she is truly receiving the full education that she is paying for. The candy-coated goodness has involved moments in which a professor has singled her out as a participant in the Ithaca Young Writers Institute. It gave her a sense of not being stuck in high school mode, still in her hometown. Also, she was able to “attend” a comedy show made possible by the college, an activity that she had never done before. She even won a raffle prize!
The neutral layer is where everything goes smoothly. Her microphone works for Zooms, she has great classroom “remote” interactions and experiences the pure enjoyment of the content being taught. Then, she makes a bowl of ramen. Classic college student.
The sour layer involves having to see and live through the agonizing letdowns of 2020. It is quite painful for me as her parent, supporter, counselor and coach. I want to love her pain away, but it doesn’t work like that. I want to give her the independence and freedoms that come along with going to college, but she didn’t go to college. She longs for that.
We have tried to focus on what we do have control of for the most part. We have turned our home upside down to create a dorm room and dedicated workspace complete with a minifridge, smart TV and yes, the numerous string lights and wall hangings. Plus, a new desk and chair. It’s the least I could do to help my college student, my daughter, to feel like she is moving on while she copes with her remote courses, feelings of isolation and not being able to separate from the family unit like planned from the beginning of her sophomore year of high school. Having a college student attending remotely is distasteful. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Willy Wonka can have his Gobstoppers back. Come spring, we want Life Savers … all cherry flavored!