The dog is barking his head off, announcing the arrival of either UPS or Amazon Prime, I can’t be sure. We’ve ordered so much lately—groceries, greeting cards, gobs of hand sanitizer. Honestly, I’ve lost track of what’s arriving when. After four months of panic buying, I think I’ve finally broken my husband’s meticulous computer tracking system, a spreadsheet that supposedly keeps us within budget.

“It’s from Bed Bath & Beyond,” my daughter, a rising college freshman, opens the latest delivery—a mattress pad for her dorm room. “Twin extra-long,” she says, waving a covering that promises protection and comfort.

My chest hitches. Protection from all that’s out there? Really?

It’s not like I don’t know the drill, this stockpiling of college essentials. Shower caddy, surge protector, sheet set. Command hooks, Keurig, comforter. Three years ago my eldest, now a college senior, flew the coop. I should be calm, confident. But this time feels different.

In T-minus a few weeks, both my girls will pack up, mask up, and enter the virus-laden world I’ve tried so hard to protect them from.

It feels wrong to admit this, but for me, the past few months have been a sort of comfortable cocoon, my eldest tucked in her bedroom finishing her junior year of college online, her sister Zooming her way through virtual classes and home AP exams. It’s been a time of long, lazy breakfasts, the kitchen table laden with thick slices of French toast and freshly-cut strawberries. A time of barbecues, board games, and badly-played Badminton. A time of memorable milestones: A drive-in movie theater graduation and a 21st birthday celebration with my husband, the backyard bartender, popping the cork.

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Nestled in my bubble, I’ve kept the news off (mostly), and the girls home (always). There’s been the occasional socially-distanced visit with Grandma, but other than a singular friend visiting for a driveway chat or a bike ride through the neighborhood, my girls have sheltered at home since March.

It’s been a privilege and a gift, this time to reconnect.

Over games of Sequence and Uno I’ve rediscovered my eldest’s keen wit and intellect. During long walks, I’ve savored my younger daughter’s truly remarkable resilience and optimism despite missing prom, parties, and the pomp and circumstance of a traditional high school graduation.

And yes, there’s been the requisite quarantine baking. Many batches of ginger cookies offered a holiday feel, a sense that the girls would be home forever, laughing as they rolled fragrant dough in bowls of sugar. But I’ll never forget my apple pie attempt. The girls pretended to enjoy it, but the crust tasted like cement. Looking back on it, I wonder if the stiff topping didn’t do a good job of holding everything in place. Keeping the sweetness where it belonged. Safe. Inside.

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I know all this cocooning must inevitably come to an end. The universities are on go-ahead mode and I’m like a mother robin, flitting across the web in search of supplies for my brood. Masks, check. Sanitizers, check. Thermometer, check. My mantra? Think positive. There will be testing, distancing, hand washing. My girls are smart. They’ll do the right thing. But what if other kids don’t?

My head is spinning, the clock ticking. But I still have a few precious weeks.

Plenty of time for backyard Badminton and front yard Frisbee. Time for s’mores on the deck and Just Dance in the living room. Time for pancakes with bacon, extra whipped cream on everything.

A few weeks from now, if you find a middle-aged mom sitting on her front steps, college t-shirt on, a wistful look on her face, do her a favor.

Tell her, because she’ll need to hear it, that her girls will be OK.

This article originally appeared on Medium

Stefanie Wass

Stefanie Wass’ essays have been published in the Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, Seattle Times, The Writer, Cleveland Magazine, Akron Beacon Journal, This I Believe, Cup of Comfort, and 16 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Her fiction credits include a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council and a finalist placement in the National Association of Elementary School Principals Book of the Year Contest. She is currently working on a middle-grade novel for young readers.