Debunking presumed fears and limitations in our kids

We were a little late in dismantling the bunk beds in my daughter’s bedroom, but we finally did the deed last month.


She went off to college and hasn’t really lived at home for the last two years. Her little sister hasn’t lived in the bottom bunk since their brother went away to college four years ago, at which point she claimed squatter’s rights to his room.


There was no need for two beds in that second-floor room with a doorway leading to the attic. But they kept standing there anyway. And my daughter would crawl into the top bunk whenever she came home on school breaks.


Since it’s clear that she’s going to be back here for a while, and since she is 20 years old, it was finally time to take apart the beds. Have no fear, “Step Brothers” fans—we carried the frame and mattress from the top bunk up into the attic, so she still has plenty of space for activities.


Actually, what she mainly does in her bedroom is sit at a small chalk-painted desk she bought from Facebook marketplace and bang out papers, presentations, and other assignments for class.


Sometimes she asks me to help her think through the logic of her theses and arguments and I do my best, but I never took History of French Creole or Biomedical Ethics when I was in college.


I’m pretty confident that I wouldn’t have been able to handle most of the subject matter then, and I know with certainty that it eludes me now.


Honestly, it makes me feel kind of cruel that for so long I was making a young woman whose head is filled with all this heady stuff climb a little rickety wooden ladder to reach her pillow at night.


On Mother’s Day, we took a drive from our home in Cleveland out west to Oberlin to enjoy the scenery and to see my girl’s college stomping grounds. We’re not sure when she’ll be able to return to campus, but it was fun to see the spring buds on the trees in Tappan Square.


She also ordered us some delicious “cruffins” and breads and brownies from a quaint and homey bakery downtown. She loves the place for its focus on gluten-free treats—a special indulgence for her.


Before she went away to college, my daughter was diagnosed with a double-whammy of autoimmune disorders: Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease. This has made her dependent on an insulin pump and the hypervigilance of friends and strangers to avoid cross-contaminating her food.


I was incredibly nervous about having her leave home with these issues in her body to contend with when there are already so many other issues to contend with everywhere else.


But, despite the fact that I was trying to contain her in a toddler-sized bed, she is certainly big enough to meet the task.


She is very much able to take care of herself.


What’s more, she’s become an advocate for others. The courses she’s taking in school are leading her to understand how to amplify others’ voices and appreciate how we all fit in the larger context of life and society.


She’s on the path to becoming a child-life specialist, a healthcare professional who helps normalize and demystify medical treatments and hospital stays for young people, offering support in times of worry and uncertainty.


College students should be at college, making lifelong memories with friends.


It’s a shame that they are not able to have that on-campus experience right now, but it’s too risky. And with her pre-existing conditions, my daughter is much safer under my own roof.


I know it’s foolish to believe that we can fully protect our kids from the world outside our doors, and in fact, we all need for them to embrace the opportunities and challenges that exist for them out there. But it’s still kind of nice to think that you can keep them near you forever.


One day soon, we’ll all wake up to some new kind of normal. Until then, I’m glad my daughter is sleeping in the room next to mine.


And come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t so bad for her to be in that top bunk for so long.


It helped her dream higher.

Read more articles by Kathleen Osborne.

Kathleen Osborne is the mother of three children who now are legally considered adults, although she has trouble assigning that label to herself. She is the marketing and communication director at Hathaway Brown School, where she’s inspired by creative, smart, and confident girls every day.

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