Bad Words

I saw a patient of mine yesterday for her annual exam; she is a divorced mom of two teenaged kids. She works full-time and barely ever comes in. My impression has always been that she’s one very strong and practical lady.  She said she didn’t have any real concerns, but something about the way she said it, I asked, Are you sure?

“Well,” she said, “I feel so bad for my daughter. She’s a senior in high school, she’s a real good student, and she got into [a top private college]. She really wants to go, but I’m not sure I can afford it. The school even has a good financial package, but it’s still tough. What’s the worst is her father doesn’t want to contribute much, he keeps saying she can go to [the local branch of the state university]. She has her heart set on this private college, and it’s just got such a better reputation, and will help her out so much, for the rest of her life…”

She described that her ex husband has done well with investments, drives a convertible luxury car, and takes a lot of vacations. But he has told her and their daughter that he isn’t willing to contribute more than a paltry amount towards college because he says, the State University is good enough. He has extra cash, and wants to buy investment properties instead of paying for college.

To me, education is such an obvious priority. The idea that this hardworking daughter of a hardworking mom may have to decline an opportunity to attend a top school, because her own father would rather spend his excess thousands of dollars on  real estate, just made me sick. And I couldn’t help it, the words slipped out before I could check myself.

“What an asshole!” I declared.

As soon as I said it, I regretted it. How unprofessional!

“Oh, I am so sorry, that was a very bad word,” I immediately apologized, lamely.

She laughed. “No, he IS an asshole, that’s why I divorced him,” she said. “My daughter is crushed, which makes me so sad, but on the other hand, the kids are finally seeing what kind of a person their father really is.”

“I am so sorry for your daughter to be in this position,” I offered.

“Me too,” she said.

The rest of the visit was uneventful. But the exchange stuck with me. I had felt so strongly, and just declared what I felt.

Was that wrong? Unprofessional, definitely… but perhaps not wrong?

2 thoughts on “Bad Words”

  • I think an education is one of the most important things you can give your children, ever. I would give up a LOT of stuff to send my son to good schools; we’re already thinking about how to find good school districts for elementary school when I match for residency, just in case we can’t afford private school yet. And we DEFINITELY want him to go to MIT or Harvard or whatever the best college he can possibly get into is, and we’re already saving intensively with that in mind. And he’s not even born yet! 🙂

    That being said, while I think the father’s attitude is really unfortunate (and self-absorbed), I don’t necessarily think parents OWE their children college tuition. If the college gave the girl a good FA package, shouldn’t she be able to borrow the rest? My father wasn’t really into college when I went, so I did all the FA paperwork myself, they tossed me a pittance of an aid package, he contributed some money, and I borrowed everything else. It was up to me — I could have gone to a cheaper school and saved myself a lot of loans, but I really wanted to go to the hard-core science school I went to. And I don’t regret it, but I also don’t feel like my father “owed” me the rest of my tuition. And I loved my college and I do think it was worth borrowing to go there, but I also probably would have done just fine at a state school.

    I guess if the daughter is totally maxing out ALL of her loan options, still coming up short, and the father still won’t help, then that does suck. But if paying for college isn’t his priority, then I do think it’s her responsibility to shoulder the maximum possible amount of debt herself if she really wants the pricey school.

  • Comfort about cursing is one of our generation’s great accomplishments :). I think that doctors offices and schools are holdouts in this way. Outside of those areas, there’s a whole lot of shit piss fuck going around.

    As for the value of the grand college education, that seems to be under attack recently. Loads of pundits are saying that schools have finally gotten too expensive and that payback certainty is too tenous. Consider what else can be done with $100,000 and four years. Just saying …

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