College is Optional, Kid

Yesterday, Silas (5), asked me, “Daddy, do I have to go to college?” Without any hesitation, I responded, “Nah. You don’t have to.” Lindsay offered some clarification from the kitchen, “It depends on what you want to study.”

“Well, if I don’t want to do science, can I not go to college?”

“There are a lot of different things you can do at college besides science,” she answered. Meanwhile, I’m thinking. “Why the hell are we talking about college? He’s five.”

I continued with my un-nuanced advice, “It’s optional. No one has to go to college.”

“Well, I don’t want to go then.”

“Sounds good to me.” Believe it or not, that’s my honest answer. I don’t care. In fact, I would rather he find some kind of passion (no motorcycles or iguanas) rather than enter college blindly, half-ass his way through it, become an insurance adjuster and then a contestant on the Bachelorette.

I also know that my answer didn’t’ really matter because, save a handful of wacky performance artists, no adult has ever said, “I knew from the age of five that I didn’t want to go to college.” People change their minds, and Silas was probably imagining college as a place that forces people to do things they don’t like, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that’s what high school is.

Lindsay, who lovingly errors on the side of young children being impossibly wise, now believes that Silas is destined to become a singer because…well, he’s mentioned a few times that he wants to be a singer and there’s this “I don’ t want to go to college thing” and apparently Silas is “an old soul” and Mercury is in retrograde and a dove was seen sipping the tears of a scarecrow and someone is PMSing.

Since it’s been decided and written on a ceremonial sword or chalice of some kind that our elder heir will be a singer, we (Lindsay) had to consider whether he will have a good enough voice to succeed in his destiny.

My wife was surrounded by music at a young age. Her mother had a couple boyfriends who played guitar and she remembers everyone singing, dancing, laughing, riding on motorcycles and putting bandanas on cats.  As I’ve heard her recall wisfully, her own mother sang and played tamborine in a “music group band.” I don’t know what a “music group band” is, but those are the words she insisted I use — apparently, it’s imperative that I’m both overly specific and impossibly vague when describing her mother’s musical history. In college, Lindsay even sang a little backup for her boyfriend’s band at a party inside a garage (or maybe it was one time at a party and then another time in a garage). Whatever the story, my wife never had the tone or pitch needed to really break through and “wow the judges.”

I have a pretty good voice, according to everyone who’s ever had the privilege of listening to my silky rendition of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” by Nat King Cole. But, like my wife, there’s nothing unique about my tone. I can hit the notes and do some mimicking, but I have no style.

So it appears that young  Silas’ fate is left to whether his parent’s lackluster musical genes mixed in some magical manner to create the next Neil Sedaka. We can either fret about that unlikelihood, or simply wait a few weeks until he changes his mind and decides he wants to be a marine biologist.

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A Marine Biologist says:

Why does everyone always pick on the marine biologists? When I was 6, I declared that’s what I was going to be. I had no idea what college was as no one in my family had ever gone but my first grade teacher told me that I’d have to go and probably go to grad school in order to achieve that goal. She also warned me I’d need really good grades and said it was really unlikely that I’d keep at it (challenge issued!). In part because of that conversation, I graduated from HS as the valedictorian, went on to an ivy league school on a scholarship, got a PhD, and am now a professor who studies marine biology (though nobody calls it that, as it turns out). Mercury might just be right…

Not a marine biologist, but as a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest the importance of marine biology is right up there with the locations of our fav coffee stand….top 10!

Insurance Adjuster says:

As an insurance adjuster, you are right on the money. You absolutely do not want your kid in this profession that basically preys on the recent college grads who need a job quick because mom/dad just cut off the college fund. They pay you just enough, give you just enough of an increase and then promote you to keep you around. I have yet to meet someone who came into insurance because they loved the idea of it. All of us and I mean all of us got here by accident and have yet to find a way out.

Star says:

At that age, I was certain I was going to be an architect because I loved building houses with legos.  
I recently found your blog and think you’re absolutely hilarious.  As the mother to a 4 month old son, I like seeing what I have to look forward to…and hopefully I will remember your posts, the fact I’m not alone, and will be able to get through it without going completely insane.

Scotty B says:

College is for people who want to be told what to think.

Allison says:

When I was around that age, I announced to my mom that I wanted to grow up to be a school bus driver or Madonna.  Either one, both are great.  My mom encouraged it, glad to know that both of those dreams would be worked out of my system long before I was old enough to realize anything even remotely close.

AbigailKern says:

Brilliant plan. My youngest has been insisting for three weeks straight that he’s going to be a mermaid when he grows up. I told him he could be a merman, since he’s a boy, but apparently only a mermaid will do. I wish I was five again.

Tasha Hacker says:

That’s the spirit! Free-range children…that little guy is going to the be smartest of them all…because he’ll be encouraged to love what he does…adorably funny.


Fern Wroten says:

” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that’s what high school is.” Ha. Good stuff.

College landed me in a cubicle at the end of my thirty year accounting “career”. I decided to write about it with the dream of writing my way out of the cubicle. Writing is not something I studied in college. I am happier now, no longer crunching numbers. Love the comment about half-assing your way through college and becoming a an insurance adjuster. So true. My husband graduated from college and paints houses for a living. My 21 year old daughter changed her major 4 times in 3 semesters, decided she had no idea what she was doing at college and is ski bumming in Colorado this winter deciding what to do next. At 5 or 21 or 55, life is a journey and I still don’t know the answer to the question “do I have to go to college?”

songgal says:

Not so fast, Dad—I GOT A SCHOLARSHIP—(words every parent papers their wall with..) and paid for college with my voice. (Not ALL….but a lot of it..) Yep, I sang 8 hours a day. And here, at 58, I’m still goin’ strong. I did retire from public school teaching, but not from singing. :D)

Motherhood: A Descent Into Madness says:

Just checking that you’re still alive after the PMSing comment… ;-)

Stephen Beard says:

Hey, maybe he can take after Uncle Rick and start strumming that banjo (and guitar and bass and, well, anything with strings).

Chrissy Segal says:

…Bandanas on cats. Freakin’ awesome! Love it.

Stephen Beard says:

I especially like that you resisted the temptation to tell the boy that high school is where you’re forced to do things you just really don’t want to do.

“he’s a few times that he wants to be a singer and there’s this “I don’ t want to go to college thing” and apparently Silas is “an old soul” and Mercury is in retrograde and a dove was seen sipping the tears of a scarecrow and someone is PMSing.”

Best reasons I can imagine to skip college, especially because Mercury is in retrograde. No comment necessary on who might be PMSing.

Lauren Kapitan says:

Awwwe my sons name is Silas. It is so popular. Not s surprise because it is a beautiful and strong name. :)

Vanessa Poholek Fasanella says:

Good for you! It’s the plan that’s the thing, then the education. And education can be tech HS, apprenticeship, or learning on the job. You never know.

Carlee Hensley says:

LOL! I’m sure his tune will change dramatically between now and high school. ( Pun totally intended) Also, many people go to college for musical degrees. So even if he chooses to be a singer…there is still a place for him in the graduation line…should he choose to stand. :D

Lisa Benter Rich says:

My ten year old son is going to play for the New York Yankees. At best a mediocre baseball player, but if saying it often enough can make it true, he will be in pinstripes (Yankees style, not Wall Street and/or prison style) in the future.

Michelle Brooks Brinson says:

I have a son named Silas. My daughter’s name is Singer. No joke.