The Adventures Of Fatherhood – September 23, 2022

A positive COVID test brought our boy home from boarding school last weekend.

Rather than quarantine at school in a designated isolation area for five days, Beckett, 14, wanted to come home and “serve my time” – as he put it — in his own room with his family.

Fortunately, he was asymptomatic when I picked him up Friday and nothing ever materialized for him before he was dropped back off on Tuesday. School protocol requires a five-day quarantine followed by a week of masking.

It took our boy a bit to accept this was a time to come home and isolate. There was not going to be any socialization. On the drive back Friday, he asked if I could take him to the Decatur football game that night. He also wanted to go to the Boardwalk on Saturday, swim in the pool with his brother and hit the skate park on another day. Unfortunately, all the answers to his many requests were “no, you have COVID.” To this day he disputes the result, and I honestly wondered if he ever had it because he seemed fine.

It was good to have him home after about five weeks away. After he understood he couldn’t do anything, he fully embraced the isolation mode. He basically relaxed the whole time, and it seemed to be just what he needed. We couldn’t spend a ton of time with him, as we wanted to be careful with our distance. I will never get used to masking in my own house, but none of us wanted to get it so we did what we had to do.

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Though our time together was reduced, I did spend about seven hours alone in the car with him going back and forth to school. He’s not into long talks at this age, but we did have numerous small chats on a variety of topics – like sports, girls, school and friends – that I needed.

It’s inevitable to feel a bit disconnected from him. I never dreamed my life as a dad would involve my high school-aged son not going to school here. I miss being able to catch up with him each day after work, watching him play sports down the street from my office and the little things that come with living together. It’s a massive adjustment.

Though I long for those sorts of mundane things, it’s tough to explain why I’m not sad about the whole thing. A busy life has a way of filling in the gaps left behind in time and space. Instead of watching him play soccer at my alma matter, I log on to his school’s YouTube channel and watch his team play. If close enough, we travel to watch.

What makes him not being home all the time easier is how happy he seems with his school. When I dropped him off Tuesday, it was obvious he was well liked and has made many friends in a short time. A few casual chats with school folks on campus revealed they have gotten to know him. His grade level dean remarked how funny he was and how we all love his stories. It’s comforting to know he’s at a place he enjoys.

One thing I realized after my conversations with Beckett is he likes knowing when he will be back home. It’s something he looks forward to but doesn’t’ require. There seems to be a comfort level with knowing when he will be coming back home. It’s not that he’s not content at school. It just seems he likes knowing when he will see us again and when he can hang with his friends here.

We were discussing how he’s going to have his school friends and his home friends. He said it was nice how different everyone was at the separate places. When he goes to college, he will have those friends as well.

While it’s only been a little over a month, we noticed some subtle differences with Beckett. First, he was not tied to his phone the whole time he was home. This was a refreshing change. We have restrictions on phone time at our house, and there are some rules on usage at his school. Not sure exactly what brought on the change, but he seemed less fixated on it during his time home.

During a couple conversations, I picked up on a realization on his part about the differences between freedom and independence. The nature of boarding school is to keep the kids busy throughout a schoolwide schedule. For instance, when I took him back on Tuesday, it was during his soccer practice. From 3:45 to 5:45 each day is practice. If the students do not play sports, they must engage in a club activity. Every student must pick what’s called a co-curricular to take part in after the day’s last class. During this two-hour period, the students are not to be “on dorm.”

Therefore, while the kids are not free to do whatever they wish, there is a certain amount of independence expected. I don’t know all the details, but I assume there are some daily struggles for Beckett. He has admitted there are challenges, and I can understand it.

A comment that has stuck in my head is, “Dad, I have learned there’s a huge difference between freedom and independence.”

Even before he left for school, there was a certain self-awareness with our kid. He seemed to know certain things were going to be tough. He said, “it’s going to be hard without you guys because you do so much for me.” After that comment, we spent much of the summer trying to let go a bit and encourage him along the way.

It was interesting to see some of these improvements with him during his five days at home.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.