Ben will begin his senior year of high school next month. He is thinking about where he will apply to college. His academic advisors and music mentors have recommended schools where they believe he will get the best possible education and professional training, while my friends and family stress the importance of living away from home. "Kids need to experience other cultures, other ways of life," they tell me. "They need to develop independence; to learn to navigate the world without Mommy or Daddy's interference."
Ben's top two choices are schools in Canada, because he would like to live outside the US for a while, and in Florida, where he has been told he has a good chance of getting a baseball scholarship. If he doesn't get into either, he thinks he wants to stay in the city and attend one of the many schools that offer both a solid academic grounding and a good music program.
I will miss him, a lot, if he moves away, but I will support his choices and his sense of adventure. I won't worry if he stays put, though.
I think he is already having deeper and broader experiences of "other cultures, other ways of life" than I gained by moving from suburban New York to suburban Virginia for college. The NYC public high school he attends is ethnically, culturally and economically diverse, with no visible dominant group, and he has friends whose backgrounds are both similar to his and drastically different.
In part because of changing mores, and in part because texting and email now make it possible to stay in close touch when we're separated, Ben also enjoys more freedom as a high schooler than I did as a college student with a dorm mother in loco parentis. He and his friends have the run of the city, and as a result, they tend not to go nuts when let loose, as my friends and I did.
Most of his close friends, including his girlfriend, are musicians. They traveled to England together last spring to perform at a jazz festival. His band plays in clubs around the city, and he interacts with managers, booking people, and more experienced musicians with a level of sophistication which I have yet to achieve.
It would probably be a plus if he got used to doing his own laundry, but frankly, I don't see that happening even if he does move away. He'll just barter with someone else, or go dirty. Other than that, I am increasingly inclined to sit back and embrace whatever comes, because it's all good.