Some of us are just born to be lifelong learners. Others will struggle to acquire knowledge, regardless of the best intentions. I consider myself one of the former; I’ve never had trouble learning something if I put my mind to it, and sometimes even without putting my mind to it. My oldest child, however, has always been one of the latter. Don’t get me wrong, he is an incredibly smart kid, and continues to prove it to me (and more importantly, to himself) every day. But he struggled in school, no matter how hard he tried. As he neared his eighteenth birthday, I feared that his frustration would overcome him and I would never see my firstborn walk across a stage and get his diploma.

On his eighteenth birthday, he confirmed my fear. He was leaving school, and I couldn’t stop him. The saddest part was that the school counselor agreed it was for the best. He was not thriving in the environment he was in, despite his hard work, tutors, and every solution we could think of. I had just been downsized out of my job and returned to college myself, and I was so fearful for him. What would he do? How would he ever support himself? He assured me it was the right decision, and I begged him to reconsider. We were at a stalemate.

In the end, what I did was trust him, and trust that I had raised him right, though I had done it by myself. I’m proud to say that my son did have a plan. He enrolled in a construction internship program for troubled boys. He worked hard with special instructors who evaluated his needs, and along with his carpentry team helped to build two houses for Habitat for Humanity. On his nineteenth birthday, we got the news that he passed his GED, with perfect scores in Writing. When he left school a year earlier, he had only earned eight credits toward his graduation.

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My son taught me something that day. He taught me that sometimes the road to success doesn’t look the same for everyone. He also taught me that hard work and never giving up is the ultimate way to achieve our goals, whether we are a born learner or not. He’s working full time today, and plans to attend culinary school eventually. And I am so proud of the lessons that I have learned from him.

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