This is the summer between my son’s high school graduation and the start of college – his Summer of Freedom, as he likes to call it. This is the summer when teenagers like my son hang out with their friends from high school for what might be the last time.
Shortly after graduation, my son informed us that he does not want to work this summer. For several years, we’ve explained to him that he is going to need to save as much money as he possibly can for college. Even if his financial aid pays for everything (we’re still waiting for the final numbers) he’s going to need spending money. Ask anyone who has been to college – there’s never enough money. It’s an unfortunate fact that college in America is very expensive.
At his age there isn’t a whole lot we can do to force him to work. Friends say we should ground him. My wife agrees with this, while I think he’s kind of old to be grounded. Others say we should make our son pay rent. Problem is, he needs his money for college. Plus, how do you pay rent if you don’t have a job?
Our son says that we are trying to ruin his last Summer of Freedom. I counter that without a job his Summer of Freedom could last an awful long time, because he might not be able to afford college. And if the Summer of Freedom turns into a Winter of Freedom living at home, nobody will be happy.
I remember the summer following my graduation from high school. Many of my friends were heading off to college in the fall. Others enlisted in the military and left within weeks of graduation (apparently the military doesn’t observe the Summer of Freedom). A few of us didn’t go to college and instead found jobs, our first real adult jobs.
I decided to go to work for my father and learn to be a plumber. But, like my son, I wanted to enjoy my Summer of Freedom before making this step into adulthood. The thing was, I knew that I had to work to support myself. My dad wasn’t as nice as I am – he charged rent. I told my father I would start with him in the fall and ended up working the summer at KFC. It was a perfect summer job – I boxed up all the food that didn’t sell and brought it to the beach or to a friend’s house after work.
The summer after graduation is a fun one. The accomplishment of graduating high school is still with you, while the excitement of taking that next step into adulthood is just around the corner. It’s a time to enjoy friendships, have fun, and make as many memories as you can.
It’s also a time to begin accepting adult responsibilities. I’m happy to say that a few weeks into the summer our son ended up getting not one, but two jobs. I’d like to think that he finally realized his parents were right, but he may have just looked at his bank account and noticed how empty it is. Either way, it was the right decision.
With adulthood comes many lessons. This, I think, is a good one. Unless your last name is Rockefeller or Gates, you’ll probably have to work for a living. If you don’t like your job, do something to change it. My son is going to college, and hopefully it will lead to the opportunity to do something he enjoys.
For now, he’ll work jobs that he doesn’t like. But I believe he’ll also find time to enjoy his Summer of Freedom.
Gary Sprague is a freelance writer who lives in Maine with his wife and two sons (until fall, when the oldest one is off to college). You can find him online at Twitter, Facebook and his blog, GarySpragueBooks.