Over the past eighteen months, Ben has considered, at various times, attending a university in another country; a marvelous but outrageously expensive arts college in North Carolina; and an equally pricy Florida school where he could play baseball year-round.
Except for the baseball option (we love his passion for participatory sports, but as he has no ambition to become a professional or a coach, this did not seem to be a wise use of our money), we supported each of his possible choices. He was aware that past a certain price he would need financial aid and/or student loans, but we assured him that we would contribute a substantial chunk.
We knew we could do this, because when we felt it was necessary to send him to a private preschool/grammar school with astral tuition, we managed. We took on extra work, sold our car, lived in a shoebox, dressed from thrift shops and didn't go on vacation for the better part of eight years, but we stayed out of debt and actually enjoyed ourselves a good deal of the time.
It wouldn't be as much fun this time, of course, because Ben would be gone. On the other hand, going away to college had been a transformative experience for me, and I wanted him to have the same chance. (Bill stayed home and commuted, and he felt he would have had a better experience had he gone away.)
In the end, Ben decided to attend a very good local public college. His reasons make sense to us:
• His band is gaining attention; they are playing in excellent venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The other band members plan to stay in the city for at least a few years, to see how far they can take this.
• If he attends college in NYC, he will meet people from all over the world, much more cheaply than if he had traveled to another country for the experience.
• This particular school has a world-class music department, plus a pretty good baseball team.
• (My personal favorite) I needed a transformative experience because I was miserable at home. He likes it here. He likes hanging out with us, and he likes going out with his friends. There is no down side that he can see to staying home for now.
So we have him here for a few more years, and, barring disaster, we can afford to continue our family-bonding vacations as well.
We don't kid ourselves that this is forever. He is already gone in some major ways, and already looking into junior year abroad programs. But every so often what is best for one family member turns out to be best for everyone, and when that happens I want to acknowledge and appreciate it.