An "F" in Math.

by Vicki Larson


“My grades came today,” my older son said as I was in the middle of making dinner a few weeks ago.


He had just finished his first semester at the local community college; for the most part, he enjoyed his classes if not exactly the community college scene.




“Some As, some Bs,” he said, and before I could congratulate him, he added, “Guess what I got in math.”


I was hoping this would be one of those surprise questions, but instead I heard a familiar response.




Math has been a four-letter word in his academic life; if he didn’t get an F, he got a D, despite a considerable amount of money, time and energy spent on tutors, Kumon, Score — pretty much any math program known to man.


And that’s why I was somewhat disappointed when about a year ago he changed his mind about going to culinary school and decided to go to community college instead. I didn’t get it; he’d spent 12 years struggling through traditional schools, and I didn’t see how college was going to be any easier.


Going to culinary school would have at least given him a great skill, a marketable skill. People have to eat, no matter what the economic climate, not to mention our current obsession with chefs, organic farmers, the Food Network and artisanal whatevers. And, besides, recipes don’t require algebra and trig.


But as he told me as I stood before him —or more likely slumped, no doubt unable to fully disguise my concern — “Mom, it’s my life, not yours.”


Truer words were never said. Yet, like most parents, I want my kids to find a career they’ll thrive in, one that will engage, challenge and fulfill them, one that they’ll love, or at least enjoy. And if it happens to earn them a decent salary, well, who’d be against that?


As much as I know a college degree is pretty much essential nowadays — college grads earn about $20,000 a year more than those who ended their education at high school, and that adds up over time — not every kid fits the traditional school model. He doesn’t. And for every Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Walt Disney — all self-made multimillionaires who never went to college — there are who knows how many minimally educated unemployed or underemployed people.


If he can’t make it through college, I wonder — how will he earn a living?


Obviously not in accounting.


This is new for me. School was relatively easy, and by the time I graduated high school, I knew what I wanted to study — environmental science. Even though I ultimately didn’t end up as an ecologist, I found a career, journalism, that I believed allowed me to make a difference, however small, in the world.


Of course, that hasn’t turned out to be such a great choice given the dismal state of newspapers nowadays. However, I don’t regret it — I’ve loved what I’ve been doing for 20-plus years.



sweetkaren — I agree! As a few people with low-paying, highly satisfying careers have told me, you end up with a better quality partner. Since one of the people who said that is my boyfriend, I can only project that he's right! ;-)


I am a primary breadwinner wife and mother and I adore my husband who, himself, is currently a student pursuing his own passions further. We both know that I will always be the primary financial support for our family.

I love the fact that his path allows him the flexibility to be there for me and for our son while I am working on progressing my career. He is a hands-on dad and supports me physically and emotionally by helping out with things around the house and alleviating the guilt I sometimes feel when my career keeps me at work longer than I'd like.

Regardless of statistics, I know many, many women who legitimately care less about financial support than what is provided on so many other levels.

Your son sounds like a wonderful young man with a great sense of commitment and the right career and right person will come along for him. Any woman who can't break free of the need to be supported by her husband just won't know what she's missing.