Cap and gown. Families gather. High fives and a round of celebratory cocktails. It all points to college graduation. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as we watched our only son get his diploma in environmental engineering from Louisiana State University this weekend. He worked hard. Four years turned into five, but we honestly weren’t keeping score. Our philosophy was “it takes how long it takes.” But since he didn’t finish in four years, I remember last May feeling a tinge of jealousy because his high school classmates were graduating. Maybe not jealousy but serious FOMO. I saw social media littered with everyone’s posts of how they celebrated graduation and post about their genius children's post-graduate plans. I feel silly admitting that now-my feelings of FOMO, but what this has done is given me empathy for families who have children who don’t fit the “four and done” plan.
Our first born finished in four with a degree in early childhood education. She’s now a stay-at-home mom to a darling two-year-old. But our youngest is on a non-traditional trajectory as she pursues a career as a professional model in Dallas. I’ll likely have those same “she isn’t graduating” pangs in two years. She has one full semester under her belt and is taking online classes while she works full-time.
The bottom line: everyone is different, and so is his/her path. Our son finished in five years after he switched from petroleum to environmental engineering. His freshman year he got really sick with mononucleosis. That forced him to retake a couple of classes. He worked full-time a couple of summers which cut into taking any summer classes. But he has that coveted diploma now, and it doesn’t matter how long it took.
What about the kid who doesn’t go to college? Gosh, I wish more would consider the alternatives. Trade and vo-tech schools are begging for students. There are so many great job and career opportunities for those students. Also, what about the kid who goes to work for the family business? We need you, too, because we want family businesses to succeed. My point is: college isn't for everyone. Don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
And a note to parents who's kids haven't left the nest yet for college: they are going to do things in college that will shock you but it's no worse than what you did. In fact, our son is the one who told us that "freshmen are the stupidest people on the planet and the most stubborn." And for some reason, we think if we raise them under our "perfect" conditions, that they'll all turn out how you plan. Wrong. I've heard it said, "the same water that softens the carrot hardens the egg." So, yes, they are children from the same parents, but in all likelihood, they will turn out so differently. And thank the Lord they do! We don't want to raise Mini-Mes. We want unique, passionate children who make a difference in their generation.
As my wise friend Leah has told me several times, "let God write his/her story." Do that and rest easier tonight.