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Debra-Lynn B. Hook: COVID and a second chance at motherhood

Debra-Lynn B. Hook, Tribune News Service on

Published in Parenting News

It's not often you get a second chance at motherhood.

Adult children leave, and that's that. They may come back for Christmas or a family vacation. But it's unlikely you'll ever again experience a full-bore, one-on-one, in-the-house repeat of intensive motherhood.

Unless you are "gifted" with a pandemic.

When COVID announced itself in March, the last of my three children had not launched yet. At 22, Benjie was still in college, still living in the house, though I'd hardly say he was "home." Deep into his last semester at the local university, he also had two part-time jobs, he was in a play, he was captaining a sports team and he was navigating an active social life. We were ships passing in the hallway.

His 31-year-old brother, who'd been living almost a decade in Washington, D.C., had only in late February moved home to help with his dad. Recently, tragically diagnosed with a progressive brain disorder, separated from me for three years, his dad was continuing to live on his own in a nearby condo. He had a support base of friends and help from me. But feeling the tug as eldest, Chris had worked out a plan with his job to work remotely three weeks out of the month in Ohio, then back one week in D.C., while making himself available to his dad.

We were living into this new arrangement, my sons busy with their myriad responsibilities, I with mine, when COVID came, and the shutdowns, first the university, then Benjie's sports team, his play, the restaurants where he worked. Chris' workplace announced all employees would be working remotely for the foreseeable future. Friendships stopped in mid-air. Even visits to their dad had to be curtailed as we isolated in our own bubble.


Suddenly we were all we had, our isolation made more restricted by my health, punctured 10 years ago by a diagnosis of chronic leukemia.

Memories of adolescent power struggles burbled up at first, as my sons found the voice to say they didn't like me telling them who they could see and where they could go. I found the voice to say this isn't a case of parent overriding child. "This is COVID," I said. "This is me doing what I have to do to stay safe."

There was the worst of it, the week in March when it was discovered that one of their friends had symptoms and was being tested for COVID. Relegated to the basement for quarantine, they accepted meals on the steps while we waited to hear the test was negative.

There were other moments, wrought of once-children, now adults, living up close to their mother again, disagreements over silly domestic things, whether to put the recycling in the kitchen or the garage, when (ever?) to clean the kitchen, will one of you ever notice the compost needs taking out?


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