My oldest son took driver’s education right after he turned fifteen. He planned to have all his driving hours in so he could send in for his license as soon as possible, which he did. The summer before, he had worked as many hours as possible to save for a car. He knew the exact one he wanted, and I watched him work two jobs and decline invitations from his friends so he could take extra shifts.
He took his driving test a few days after he turned sixteen, and as soon as we got home, he took his new car out for a spin. He’d been laser-focused on that car for over a year, and all his hard work had paid off. I could tell how much he loved the freedom of having his vehicle and autonomy.
Going to college right out of high school was not right for my son
When he was nearing graduation, he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. His father and I talked to him about applying to college, but that didn’t fit him. He went to work for his dad for the summer and learned the plumbing trade. When people would ask him where he was going to school or what he wanted to be when he grew up for a while, he didn’t have an answer.
It annoyed me how people would react — they treated him like his entire life would go up in flames because he didn’t have his entire life mapped out at eighteen.
Now, he’s been plumbing full-time for over a year, loves it, and has decided to get his Master Plumbing License so he can take over his father’s business one day. He has more money in savings than most adults I know, zero debt, and in his free time tinkers with his motorized toys, goes to the gym, hangs out with friends, and studies to take his plumbing tests.
During his senior year I was a little worried about what my son would do
During his senior year, when it seemed like all of his friends had their lives figured out–one was going into the military, one was headed to college to become an interior designer. People asked me if I was worried about his future and, truth be told, there was a piece of me that was concerned. But, I remembered being a teenager and wanting to figure things out for myself. Other people’s opinions or pressure never made me hit milestones any faster, and our teenagers are no different.
My daughter just got her license after turning seventeen. She doesn’t care about driving that much, wasn’t in a huge hurry to get her license, and it doesn’t bother her that she doesn’t have her car. She is different from her brother and is in no hurry to own a vehicle; there’s nothing wrong with that.
Kids all hit life milestones in their own time
If there’s something I’ve realized after raising three teenagers is that they hit milestones at different times. They all crawled, walked, and slept through the night at different ages. My daughter started potty training at one, while her brothers were resistant until they were three.
Their teen years are no different. Our teenagers are pressured to hit certain milestones at exactly the same time: Get your license at a certain age, figure out where you are going to school, and know where you’ll spend the next four years. Graduate, get a job to learn some responsibility, know what your career is going to be and decide on a major during your freshman year of college. The list goes on and on.
Our teens actually have a lot of time to figure things out
We adults make the mistake of forgetting how much time they have and how much they will change in the coming years. There is nothing wrong with them if they aren’t hitting each stage when many other kids are. If they don’t want to get their license immediately, someday they will. They will figure it out if they aren’t sure what they want to do when they graduate.
Some young adults know exactly what they want to do with their lives when they are fourteen, and that’s amazing. But, some kids take a little longer and need more time to decide. Just because they aren’t making decisions when everyone else is, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to figure it out. It simply means they need more time to do so. And the good news about that is that they will most likely choose something that feels true to them because they didn’t rush to do something just because it was ‘time.’
I’ve learned the best thing I can do for all three of my kids (as different as they are) is to let them have the space to hit certain milestones when they are ready. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted doing it this way.
More Great Reading:
Seven Reasons Skilled Trades May Be the Best Path for Your Teen