By Katie Bingham-Smith
As my son struggles his way through his senior year trying to keep up with the dozens of emails he gets while virtual learning, I have one message for him. Just get through it and enjoy it as much as you can.
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He has despised school since about 7th grade. He would much rather be tinkering with a car, at the gym with his friends, or hooking up a sink with his father, a plumber who is teaching him the trade.
My son has always been hands-on. Even on a day like today, when classes are cancelled due to a blizzard, he’s up early and ready to do something, anything. He’s already gotten the snow blower out to take care of all the snow, gotten his workout in, and showered, all by 10 a.m.
My son doesn’t want to go to college. The career choices he’s interested in don’t require a two- or four-year degree. He hates sitting still, doesn’t have any desire to take on debt at the age of 18, and has already invested some of his money in a few stocks.
There’s no part of my son that wants to go to college and he’s expressed that loud and clear for years.
Along the way, I thought he might change his mind. For a long time, I always assumed my kids would go to college. I went, his father went. It’s just what you do after high school, right?
Our children are wired differently. What they decide to do with their life after they are 18 isn’t one size fits all. Since my son doesn’t want to go to college, I know he would be miserable if I forced him to go. And as stubborn as he is (something I love about him most of the time), I know I would be the one doing all the legwork to get him into school. I don’t want that for him—but I also don’t want that for me.
I do have certain expectations from him after he graduates. I expect him to work, continue to help out around the house, cover his car expenses, and be respectful around the rules which he will still have. But I no longer have the expectation that he’ll take the same path I did.
My son often gets asked where he’s going to college. It’s as if there’s no other option.
Looking for Alternatives to College
I wish people would instead ask, “What do you want to do after after high school?” After all, some of our teenagers, including my son, don’t want to go to college. They have things they would rather do than sign up for another four years of education. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Maybe my son will decide to go to college later in life, but I don’t care if he chooses not to. I don’t care that we won’t be announcing his college acceptance on social media. And I don’t care that I won’t watch him get an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree.
What I care about is that my son is happy and living a life of purpose that feels fulfilling to him. He’s not going to get that at a university—not anytime soon anyway.
I care that he is aware there are certain responsibilities that come when you are an adult.
I care that he takes care of himself.
I care that he has meaningful relationships.
I care that we always communicate and he never feels like I am disappointed about the choices he’s made in life. This is his ride to take.
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And most of all, I care that he has the confidence and support he needs to figure out what he wants to do on his own terms without feeling like his life has to follow a script other people have written for him.
That’s something I can give him and I can’t wait to see who he decides to be.