Pandemic gives Sumter mom of 4 in college 'gift' of extra time together


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Love and respect go together for Becky Wilson.

A mother of four kids, all off in college, the recent pandemic has meant she and her husband, Tim, were no longer new "empty-nesters" because for six weeks the house was filled with six adults.

In mid-March when siblings Mark, Andy, Rachel and James arrived at the doorstep with their belongings when their campuses were closed because of the coronavirus, Mom did all the cooking for two weeks, she said.

Some of the kids complained there wasn't enough food at dinner, so Wilson said they would be in charge of the food.

"We paired the kids up into teams," Wilson said, "and so two at a time, they would get the grocery money. Then, they would do the planning, the buying and the cooking. So, that kind of settled things down a little bit when they were responsible for meals. That would help modulate their intake some."

Translation: "Everybody only gets two pieces of that," and "there are some cashews or some almonds afterwards, if you want something else."

They all would be held accountable in the process, Wilson said, and it worked.

Mom and Dad were also in the weekly cooking rotation, and she was there to help when needed, but structure and delegation have always been a part of the Wilsons' parenting, she said.

When the kids were growing up, she homeschooled the children, and in the house of six, everybody had chores. By their high school years, each kid had practice at doing the laundry and cooking on his or her own.

In their own youth, the Wilsons had it the same way with chores and responsibilities.

Work is good for people, she said, and it's part of growing up and being prepared to be an adult.

Helping to train the kids to do the chores was initially a lot of work and took extra time, she said. But, on the back end, it's worth it to have the extra help around the house.

"It's a lot for a mom to do all that," Wilson said. "Most moms, if they don't train their kids to do it, they have to call a maid. I'm like, 'Why are we going to call a maid when we have four people here who could do it?'"

"You are part of the family, so pitch in," she said.

Back to the extra time at home this spring.

Mark, the oldest at 24, on Wednesday went back to Columbia for summer work duties as a University of South Carolina medical school student.

He described the six weeks back home with Mom and Dad as "excellent, but also an adjustment."

His entire daily routine and responsibilities changed.

Regarding the cooking responsibilities, he said, Mom had prepared everyone already to know how to cook, and he described his own cooking style as "tolerably well."

The big change was going from cooking for one person to cooking for six.

"All of a sudden, now, you're cooking and paying for the supplies of six people," Mark said. "It can be a shock."

Wilson said Mark and one of his brothers cooked during the week of Easter.

Instead of the "traditional ham," which she would have planned, the boys planned something like Hawaiian chicken until they realized they didn't have pineapples in the house.

But, Wilson said, everything still worked out great for the special day.

"We had plenty to eat, and everybody was happy," Becky said. "So, it worked out fine. I guess I am just saying I had to relax a little bit my expectations. But, they really are great cooks, and we had good food to eat. Just not always what I would have planned."

Mom said the six weeks was an adjustment for her and her husband, as well.

Her kids are now young adults and are doing well independently, she said, and she's transitioning to learn how to "coach" her kids instead of "always telling them what to do." It goes both ways.

"They have to extend some grace whenever I am getting too nosy or too bossy, and I have to extend some grace as well," she said.

Her daughter, Rachel, said everybody enjoyed the extended time at home, and she especially enjoyed the laughs, "quality conversations," family walks and "undivided time together" as opposed to the Christmas holidays when everyone is so busy.

She and her brothers spent a lot of time studying because they finished their spring semesters online, Rachel said.

Mom described the six weeks as a "sweet time to be together."

"Overall, we really have enjoyed it," Mom said. "It's kind of a rare gift, I would say."

This weekend is Mother's Day, and Mark and his brother, Andy - who left recently to go back to law school - are returning for the occasion.

Just having all the kids at home makes for a happy Mother's Day, Wilson said.

"That is the best gift," she said, "to be able to celebrate with the family."

Typically, Mark said, the kids make the big meal to celebrate Mom on Mother's Day, but Wilson said in the new rotation, it's her week to cook.

So, she joked, she gets to cook what she wants this time.

"Well, they said they are going to help me," she said. "So, we are all going to pitch in and make it together."