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Deborah DeSisa Hirsch (opinion): Turning home into college classroom means changes for household

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch March 5, 2021Updated: March 5, 2021 5 a.m. Comments

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch


It was the goatee. Well, not a goatee exactly but that thin strip of hair between his bottom lip and chin.

I hate it but he likes it. And that’s when I realized the days of my being able to encourage my son to do what I want are over.

Of course, I learned that lesson a long time ago. But having him home his sophomore year in college, taking all his classes online, has been a new lesson about boundaries. Moving back home, due to COVID, has put us in a strange relationship. Yes, I still make his meals and occasionally, do his laundry, but he’s in group chats with people I’ve never met. He’s making plans with a girl he met online when he was a TA. And it’s three adults now, not two parents and a child. It’s been that way for some time. But these days I know so little about him. Though he’s still living at home, he has another life that we are not part of. We eat meals together but talk mostly about tennis and politics, and not much anything else. Life is full of challenges and maybe it’s good to see them early. It’s been hard watching him stay up till 2 or 3 a.m., then sleep to mid-afternoon, something he undoubtedly did in college. But we didn’t have to know about it, then. His world is peopled with those we don’t — and never will — know. That’s as it should be. But this weird year of him being home when he should be on campus, this interruption of his college career, has been very strange. This unplanned return home, back to his childhood room and theoretically under mom and dad’s thumb again, smack dab in the middle of his college career, has been a little haunting. He’s not really home again. We’ve had to change our life, too. We can’t have TV on when he’s in class and I have to take the dog and leave when he has a quiz or test. He eats his dinner like a surgeon, cutting his food with precision, long after we’re done (his dad and I scarf our food down). We have to have late dinners on Mondays and Wednesdays because of class. And he most surely must not like his parents commenting on his facial hair. I realize I have little to complain about. COVID has disrupted everyone’s life, and many people have lost people they love. Having late dinners? I’m ashamed to complain. But kids are supposed to go to college and stay there for four years, not come home halfway through their freshman year, only to return as a junior, college half over. What is he missing out on, not being on campus? He’ll only have four semesters left on campus. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I know that life does not go in a straight line. Things happen that are unexpected. Though I met my husband at 29, we didn’t get married until I was 39. Then, when our son was 3, I was diagnosed with cancer. It happened again two years later. I’m still here but for many years I lived believing he would lose me at an age when he wouldn’t be able to remember anything about me. Maybe it’s to teach us all that we do need to live apart, and every day, to pursue our best lives, despite my tears and heartbreak, leaving him at school for his first day. Phillip to grow into the wonderful young man he is becoming, and us, a second chance to finally let go. The first time was a dress rehearsal. Life has its own way of unfolding that, try as we might, we just can’t control. Often, it’s not what we wanted. but over time, sometimes you see it’s what you needed. Writer Deborah DiSesa Hirsch lives in Stamford. She can be reached at Her blog is

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