smart daughter-“Mommy-I’m..well, I’m not mad at Ebony, but she said she’s not going to go to University!”
me- “Well, that’s ok- not everyone has to go to uni-uh-versity. *pause of realization* Except for you. You have to go to University. And you. ” (points to oldest son)
My daughter did not pick up on this blatant hypocrisy, but my son did.
clever son- “But you didn’t go to University.”
me- (And I had two kids before I was nineteen, doesn’t mean everyone should!) “No, but I am now. And it’s very hard. Don’t you think it would have been much easier when I didn’t have three kids and a full time job?”
impressionable kids- *nods of agreement* (of course they don’t realize that I’ve worked full time since I was fourteen and I can’t actually remember not having at least one child)
I think Olivia started trying to spell “biscuit” by this point and we all got distracted. (The randomly inserted “u” made it entertaining as every time she missed it out and I said “nope” she’d substitute increasingly unlikely letters. “B-Y-S-Q-E-T?”)
But I came back to the conversation later and cringed at my glaring hypocrisy. Why is it ok for Ebony to say no to university and not for my kids? I know that plenty of people don’t go to university and go on to lead very full careers and make plenty of money. I don’t judge anyone for not going to university. (how can I?)
But, I was a teen mother. And while I support teen mothers, and believe that it is a society obsessed with the sexualization of young girls that is responsible for the epidemic of teen pregnancies, I do not want my daughter, or my sons, to experience parenthood at that young age. My world stopped when my oldest son was born. I worked full time, went to school full time and tried to do my best for him. I relied heavily on my parents to help me. But, I was a teenager. I was very impressionable. I made stupid decisions on a whim. It is almost impossible not to be self orientated at that age. And I don’t think I quite realized then how my decisions would ultimately effect my son. Or how they would effect my future self. I look back at all the stupid things I did and kick myself. How could I not realize? Simple. I was a teenager.
History has a nasty habit of repeating itself. I don’t regret for a single moment my children, but I am acutely aware of the lost opportunities, and the effect that being a teen mom had on my first child, if not my second. The only way to keep that from happening to my children is education. Goals, ambition, confidence, education. These are key. There is more to life than what is right in front of you right now. If my children go to university and get a degree and then decide they’d like to go live on a hippy commune and grow pot, fine. That will be a decision they will make, a decision they will be capable of making, a decision they can make in an educated fashion. It will be their choice. Nothing is more important than that choice.
A high school education is not enough. It does not open enough doors and present enough options to effectively make that choice. Going to University will give my children so much more knowledge and life experience that they will be able to make a confident and self assured choice when they’re done. One that I do not think they will be able to make at 16 or 17.
I think it might be easier for people who have not had the same type of life experiences to let their children decide at age 8 not to go to university. That’s not a bad thing, naive maybe. But when you have let all of life’s opportunities slip through your grasp- you are much keener not to let it happen to your children as well. I will never be a highly paid, high powered executive. I will never go clubbing in NYC. I will never take a year off to travel. I hope to complete my degrees and go onto to a successful career and be able to put three kids through university. Because all that matters now is their future.
That’s why it’s not ok for them. They don’t realize that all the odds are stacked against them. They don’t know about statistics and family history. They don’t realize that the only thing standing between them and a life of poverty and regret may just be 5 years of additional school.