I’m one of seven kids, all 9 years apart in age. There was absolutely no way my parents could have paid for our college education, and everyone of us attended college.
I can speak from my experience, we grew up working for things that we considered important. Our parents covered our basic needs and more. Family vacations were trips to the park, the beach, and similar. Dinner out to a restaurant was a big deal. We brown bagged lunches, wore hammy downs and did not think anything of it. These memories stay with you for a lifetime, not what the latest “hot” toy that’s discarded in short order.
If we wanted something beyond my parents means we worked for it, earning money mowing lawns, babysitting, delivering newspapers. And normally had a sibling that would help out. This taught us and instilled in each of us at young ages the value of money, hard work and independence. My mother would insist that we save 20% of any earnings for college or other unplanned expenses that might occur later. Even then, grades came in front of jobs or sports teams. Bad grades, you lost the other.
I wouldn’t give my childhood back for anything, the skills that were instilled have served my siblings and myself well.
You should not regret not being able to finance your sons education, if it’s important, he found a way. That lesson will and does serve him today. If anything it taught him how to deal with adversity in a mature, well thought out manner and makes him a better person for the experience.
Hold your head up high, you raised a responsible adult. For that you should be commended.