Happy graduation, son! When do we get the basement back? | COMMENTARY

Dear Son,

Congratulations on your upcoming college graduation. Your mother and I are proud that you managed this achievement, assuming you do get your diploma. As you know, we don’t see a lot of your paperwork anymore, and we have no idea what’s been happening in the basement since you moved back home in March of last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, let’s assume it’s happening. What a great moment this is, particularly to the extent that we will soon be able to reclaim the rec room. And, of course, the bachelor’s degree thing, too. It’s certainly been a memorable journey.


Far be it from us to get teary-eyed about this milestone. We are not the nostalgic type. Still, it seems like only yesterday that you were in disposable diapers. And, by the way, why were you wearing disposable diapers yesterday? I assume it had something to do with finals week. We remember your first steps, your first permanent teeth, your first words and, of course, your first in-school suspension for standing up to a bully. We thought about having the assistant middle school principal’s note laminated, then thought better of it. Instead, Mom had this crazy idea of creating a kinetic sculpture from your pizza boxes of the last 14 months until she realized it would be about three stories tall. Good times, good times.

Speaking of your mother, she’s promised not to sob when she watches your commencement ceremony on Zoom. This is made slightly easier by the fact that you will still be one floor below us, participating in the moment virtually. It’s important to us that this circumstance not detract from your experience of a true college graduation. In your honor, we have agreed to turn off the air conditioning and force you to stay seated in one place while wearing a funny hat and cheaply made nylon gown for several hours as you listen to us spout meaningless platitudes. Here’s a preview: “Remember to thank your parents.” Wait, does that sound predictable and self-serving? Good, we’ve struck the right tone.


We’ve spoken to a number of fellow college parents who have faced these same challenges. A son or daughter moves home. The parents try to keep a respectful distance and preserve the college student’s independence. The youngster keeps vampire hours. Things get messy. The kitchen becomes a 24-hour snack bar. The broadband is taken hostage. And the noise coming from the workspace sounds suspiciously like a video game unless college professors now give lectures by yelling “Hadouken” before landing a flying kick or moving around the Zoom screen eating dots with a “waka-waka-waka” sound effect. Oh, those crazy liberal professors.

Granted, it’s been a tough year. Your older sister got through college without a devastating plague, which is kind of odd since she does seem more the plague type. You had to vacate your dorm abruptly, leave the campus social life behind, face academic compromises and generally have more than one-quarter of the college experience diminished through no fault of your own. On the other hand, you’ve been there to take out the trash and recycling, carry in the groceries, water the plants, weed the garden and perform other household chores that I would have gotten stuck with. Fair trade, right? We probably should have been taking yearbook photos. If only we had thought to assemble a yearbook.

Under these unusual circumstances, it’s perfectly fine if you feel you need to take some “me” time and plot your future. As an economics major, you are likely aware that you will need a job. This involves one performing a task for which one is paid. Good luck with that. Also, you will need a place to live. And groceries. Groceries are surprisingly expensive when a parent is not buying them for you. One bit of fatherly advice: You may want to get a haircut and shave unless your application is to play blues guitar for ZZ Top or star in a reboot of “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.” And, by the way, I’m pretty confident you will not understand either cultural reference. The things they don’t teach in college.

So feel free to take a few days, even a week. The new tenant isn’t coming for your room until the first of the month so you have a little flexibility here, especially if you want to make a better offer rent-wise. Otherwise, we will see you again in 2026 when your mother and I reach retirement age and move in with you. Turnabout is fair play. Don’t worry. We will be no trouble at all. Unless you need to use the Wi-Fi. We’re looking forward to the five-year reunion of our own little Pandemic Class of 2021.



Peter Jensen is an editorial writer at The Sun; he can be reached at