My daughter, Josie, doesn't want to go to college. She told us one day as we drove down El Camino and I pointed out Stanford University, the school where I graduated from almost 10 years ago.
Since Josie is only 3, you'd think I would just let it slide. But my daughter is incredibly bright and has so much potential. It bothered me that she already made up her mind not to go.
Maybe she looked over my shoulder as I balanced my check book online and realized funding for college in 2026 wasn't looking good. Maybe she just needed to talk about it more.
"Why don't you want to go?" I asked her as I turned around and looked at her in her car seat.
"I just don't," she said as she picked up the book in her lap and started turning the pages.
"I want to go to college," my two year old son, Owen, said as he looked at me from under the bill of his Giants hat in the car seat next to Josie's. "I'm going to play baseball in college."
"Great idea," My husband, Norm, said. Owen must have been with Josie when she was checking out our finances. But Owen came up with a good plan - he was going to get a scholarship.
I turned my attention back to Josie. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked Josie.
"Um," Josie thought as she turned another page of her Doctor Dora book. "I think a doctor," she said.
Sweet Victory! I had her.
"Well, Josie, if you want to be a doctor you have to go to college. And then you have to go to a special college just for doctors. So I guess you'd better go," I said. I rolled down the window to feel the fresh breeze while I enjoyed my parenting success.
I could hear the thud as Josie's Doctor Dora book fell to the ground. "What about the Tooth Fairy? Do I have to go to college if I'm going to be the Tooth Fairy?"
Norm, did his best to contain his laughter as he turned left on California Ave. I was too irritated to find any humor in her ability to stump me in less time than it took for the car window to roll down.
"Huh, Mom? Does the Tooth Fairy have to go to college?" Josie asked waiting for me to verbalize her victory.
"No, Josie," I mumbled. "The Tooth Fairy doesn't have to go to college."
"Huh? Say it louder," she said.
"You're right. You don't have to go to college," I said loudly as I sunk down in my seat.
"Yeahhhhh!" Josie said.
I thought for a minute about my college experience and how much I learned about myself and and how much I grew during my time at Stanford. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the professors who taught me, the friends who encouraged me and the campus that inspired me. 'She has to go,' I thought.
I looked back at my daughter in the rearview mirror as she danced in her car seat to Katy Perry's song Firework. 'What am I even worried about?' I thought, calming myself down. I'll just wait 10 years and tell her about frat parties, football games and streaking through the quad. She'll be enrolled before her 14th birthday.