Working Boys

(ROCKWALL, TX – May 6, 2016) Brennen, our 17 year old, scrambles through the house gathering cleaning supplies. “Can I borrow a vehicle? I have a boat to scrub.” He’s only got a small window of time before lacrosse practice. A traffic ticket looms and he doesn’t want to miss practice again to work up the money, although he’s been willing before.

Around the time Brennen heads out, Philip (21) drags in the door, jeans peeling with dried stucco. He’s worked all day on a 30-foot scaffold. He beelines to the mail, searching for a congratulatory letter from a fire department, but as many have warned, he must be patient, holding on to his firefighter hopes of living on his own. He grabs his coaching shirt and heads out to inspire his 3rd and 4th grade lacrosse team to a hopeful victory.

Aidan, our 19 year old, texts, living with family in Mississippi, working as a diesel mechanic in an old-fashioned apprenticeship. He can dismantle a motor in a day and he’s learning to diagnose the problems of modern complex engines. While boys his age flunk classes after buying gaming systems with momma’s money, he purchases tools for work with his own hard-earned cash.

Our sons are not typical compared to most. We lacked the money to put them on travel teams and they had to earn the majority of the costs of prom. They have all worked while playing ball, often to the chagrin of their coaches. At times I felt bad about that, but if they wanted to drive, they had to contribute gas—there was just no other way.  As far as college, the older two have decided right now against the university. They fear debt the size of a mortgage and not having a good enough job to pay it back; they hear of the trillions of neglected student loans and it scares them to death. I know, it’s sacrilege, everybody goes to college, the debt burden is just part of “the game,” but my older two have decided against it. Instead they hope to contribute to the world. They feel society needs more rescuers and fixers and less whiners that demand for others to pay.

Who knows what Brennen is going to do? He talks like he wants the go the way of dad, to the university, but not without acquiring a skill. He says he wants to have the practical ability to work if he needs to, while going through school. Once again, it’s not the way I did it, but who’s to say it isn’t a good idea. I mean, it worked for older generations, so why not?

Some may think they’re heading nowhere, but not us: they work hard, pay many of their own bills, and avoid debt; that sounds pretty responsible. Whether it’s college or trade, diplomas or wrenches, seeing the men they are becoming gives us hope for their baby sister, and as far as Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts, well, we’ve already got good ones.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall, teacher, coach and author of Goliath Catfish. Follow Scott’s blog at and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at

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