Originally published in the Miami News-Record, February 15, 2015
My daughter, who has been out of high school for nearly a year now, is working as many hours as her employer will give her, and is furiously seeking a 40-hour a week gig, gets this question even more than a typical kid her age: “So, are you going to college?” When she answers, “No,” it’s almost like throwing a bucket of ice water on the questioner. They stand there in abject horror at the prospect of her wandering around this big ol’ world without an “education”. Oh, the horror!
She handles it with grace every single time. I’d have already snapped and gotten snarky, but she just smiles sweetly and nods politely. She already has more life skills in that department than some gainfully employed adults out there. I know that people really do mean well, but folks, I have some big news that may not have occurred to everyone out there: college isn’t for everyone. In fact, I’ll add to that: growing up isn’t for everyone.
Her daddy and I worried that by graduating early she was going to grow up too fast. And while she is far more mature than most young adults her age or older, she is doing a fabulous job of enjoying her youth. She budgets her money, spends wisely, doesn’t party, shows up to work on time, goes above and beyond with virtually everything she does, is nice to small children and the elderly, is a sucker for cute puppies, and is more responsible about getting oil changes than her mother is. But she is also silly and sometimes forgets to turn off the coffee pot. She gets distracted playing with her pet mice sometimes and forgets to unload the dishwasher. She borrows my earrings and forgets to return them. She is a responsibly irresponsible young adult and while sometimes I get aggravated and think, “Is she EVER going to grow up??” I then take a step back and answer myself: “Man, I hope not.”
Just this past week our son applied to the Electrical Technology program at the vo-tech. At 16 he thinks he wants to be an electrician. But just a few months ago he wanted to be a child psychologist. Heck, he may pursue Underwater Basketweaving before it’s all said and done. The only thing we’ve ever told our kids regarding their futures is that whatever it is they decide to do, do it with everything in them. Be the best dogcatcher or chef or homemaker or doctor they can be. There’s a lot to be said for happiness and so many of us are so worried about being grown up, we forget to be happy. So whether my kids cure cancer or make sandwiches for a living, I just want them to be happy while doing it.
Because of her boyfriend’s schedule, Abby and her new beau had to celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days early this year. Paul was already in bed and I had just brushed my teeth when they got back from their “romantic” date. I heard them giggling as they walked through the dining room, stuck my head out the bedroom door to see the two of them, arm in arm, walking toward me with Groucho Marx glasses complete with plastic nose and a nifty contraption that allowed them to blow giant plastic “snot bubbles” out of their giant fake noses. When they saw that I saw them, they both busted up in hysterical laughter and Abby said, “Mom! Are these not THE coolest things ever!?” I just nodded my head and thought, “Not really…. but you are, kid.”
We put far too much pressure on our kids to “grow up” when we all should be spending more time wearing silly glasses and forgetting to make our beds. My advice to everyone, no matter your age: Stay young, stay silly, chill out. Blow more snot bubbles. Okay, well, alright, not literally. Don’t do that. Please. At least not around me.