I’ve written several pieces in recent months about having a child graduating from high school, and now I’m writing about a part of it that I haven’t yet addressed. In general, I am going to talk about the inverse relationship of how old your child gets, and the amount of money in your wallet. Also, the inverse relationship between how old your child gets, and the dwindling number of days on your calendar that do not have a spawn related event scheduled.
Today’s mild rant is truly aimed at the young people in our readership – those who are contemplating a baby, trying to figure out if you can afford it. Let me be clear. NO, you cannot afford it. I don’t care how much money you make; you can’t afford it. Of course, I am doing a little tongue in cheek here, but truth is truth. It starts out with diapers and maybe formula, both of which are ridiculously expensive, and both of which you will need twice as much of as you originally think. It will strap you, and you will look at each other and say, “Only a few more months, and then we won’t need diapers anymore!” But you haven’t considered daycare, clothing and shoes that they outgrow quarterly, copays at the doctors, portraits, and a pony.
When Tatertot is small, you are begging them to eat a few bites. By the time he is nine, you will never again open the refrigerator and not write something on the shopping list, because it is just gone. A teenager playing sports can literally eat an entire loaf of bread and half a block of Velveeta making grilled cheese sandwiches in ten minutes.
Your infant car seat was probably given to you at a shower. There are no more showers, but you will need at least two, and maybe three additional car seats/booster seats now that they are required until a child is 8. Here is something that no one will mention until it’s way too late. You know that cute, cheap, small economical car that you are driving? You can’t fit more than two car seats in that back seat, so trust me, you have a third child, you are also buying an SUV.
Whether your child plays sports, or an instrument, the sheer cost of trying to make them well-rounded will literally blow your mind. The current rate for music lessons is $18 for half an hour. Renting a saxophone so your kid can play in elementary band is about $35 a month -for 24 months until you own it. Which pretty much guarantees your kid will stop playing his alto sax and switch to the bass sax. Sports require physicals, and athletic fees, along with cleats, mouth guards, gloves, and pads. It also requires having a twenty-dollar bill on hand at all times, so your kid can eat at Taco Bell on the way home from the game.
Kids are expensive, and time-consuming.
Last night, my graduating senior was texting back and forth with me, while we tried to set a date for his graduation party. Thirty texts later, I began to lose my grip. No, not that Saturday, because District 10 North South game. No, not that Saturday because American Legion Ball. Not that Friday, because it was Dalton’s party. It went on and on….and finally, I put this up on Facebook: “Can I just say that this crap of having a graduating Senior in May, while we try to find an acceptable date for a graduation party in between the Senior trip, the Senior Prom, the Senior picnic, the Senior awards banquet, 6 evenings a week of baseball, while there are a slew of graduation parties to attend really sucks!!!” I call it waving my crazy flag. Letting all of my friends know that I am within seconds of panic mode. Not five minutes later, my son texts that he has acquired a prom date….. you know, for the prom that is in ten days. Now we need a corsage, a boutonniere, a dinner reservation, a second ticket, the car needs cleaned….
I immediately began to get responses from my people. The other moms with graduating kids were like, “Preach it! May is a nightmare!” My older friends who have been there/done that were laughing, because we love it when our friends get tortured in the same way we were. Many people tried to give me hope, and reminded me that I would survive the month. So, I calmed down, got a date scheduled for the party, and got a good nights’ sleep, except for the part where I laid awake and made a guest list and menu in my head.
This morning I took graduating senior to the dermatologist for an issue that couldn’t be resolved locally. An hour away. Three gallons of gas. Check. Two and a half hours of time. Check. Fifteen-dollar co-pay. Check. Two prescriptions at $40.00, one of which had to be ordered, so two trips to pharmacy. Check. On the way home, he presents me with the paperwork for the District 10 North South football game. This is a tremendous honor, to be asked to play this game, kind of an all-star game. But, silly me, I guess I just thought he showed up that Saturday, played his heart out, and made memories. No. Not hardly.
There is a $100 fee to be paid. He has to have a physical dated after March 1st – a physical that insurance won’t pay for since his last physical was only three months ago. He has to have a newer pair of white football pants, which he doesn’t own as white is not our schools color. Finding football pants in May, white, no less, shouldn’t be too hard, right???? He needs a bio, and a picture. There are four practice days prior to the game. The practices are held in Erie. He has to be 1.5 hours from home four days in June. So, as I’m driving us back, and my stomach has rolled over, while my grip white-knuckles on the steering wheel, I’m mentally crossing off another four days in June from the calendar, and subtracting all of these expenses from my checkbook.
I looked at the calendar, here at the beginning of May, and realized that there is not one Saturday open for all of May, June, and July. Not one. I had wanted to take the boys to Cedar Point. Can’t figure out when we would do it. The senior reports to college August 12th.
I looked at the checkbook, and went – $100 for football, $25 for pants, $100 for prom, $300 for graduation party food, gas money/food money for five days of football and at least 15 more baseball games, hotel for college orientation plus food and gas….I just wanted to weep. It was overwhelming.
Is it worth it, you ask me? Is it worth it to literally give yourself up to your children’s schedule, to literally give every dollar that you have to your progeny? Because, that is what parenting is, folks. Parenting is deciding that everything that you are, and everything that you do, and everything that you have is solely for the benefit of the children that you are raising. Because THEY, and not you, are the most important thing.
Is it worth it? Oh my heart, yes. There is no degree, no career move, no award, no trip anywhere in the world that compares to watching your baby perform their part at the Mother’s Day tea – the part they have practiced for weeks, while you sit there in teeny tiny library chairs, knees to your chin, wiping away those pesky tears.
I have found nothing in this world that compares to a teacher at a conference telling me that when a new child arrives in the classroom, they are always paired with my child for their first week, because my child is so kind. I have found nothing that compares to an older couple stopping at my table at a restaurant to compliment my children on their behavior. Nothing compares to watching your child hit a home run while the people in the stands scream and the entire team comes off the bench and tackles them at home plate. Nothing compares to watching your kid with the ball in his hands run towards the end zone, and nothing will stop your heart faster than watching him get hit and hearing the crunch clear up in the stands while you stand there repeating over and over in your head, “Get up. Get up, baby.”
Nothing will put you in the right place like watching your youngest in white dress shirt, black dress pants and a bowtie play a drum solo in front of 500 people. Nothing will make you feel more alive than watching your sixth grader accept the school award for Citizen of the year.
One of my sons’ friends just signed up for the Marines. While I will admit to some anxiety over it, my pride has no bounds, and he isn’t even my kid! I just love him, and his parents, and I’ve watched him grow up for five years. Semper Fi Tyler!
Another of my son’s friends stayed overnight a few weekends ago, and got himself up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to go lifeguard at the YMCA. I’ve known him since Kindergarten, when he was a cute, sweet, funny little guy. Now he’s a grown man working a job.
One of my relatives just took her elementary school daughter to Penn State University to compete in a math event. She came in 4th out of 62 students. When was the last time you and I were fourth in anything, besides the grocery line with the current customer whose card wouldn’t go through?
Just this week, in honor of Mother’s Day, my cousin, who has a blog of her own, wrote a beautiful piece honoring her mother for the self-confidence she instilled in her. It made me cry. What in the world could possibly compare to having an adult child write a published piece on the internet that is virtually a love letter to a parent? If my Aunt isn’t a blubbering mess of emotions today, I’ll eat my hat, because NOTHING compares to having a child declare their love and devotion to you in a public forum.
Again, this week, I saw this post on Facebook: “I just want to thank the best parents in the world, ________ and ___________. Thank you for towing my Jeep back home at 1:00 am. I love you both.” Somebody I graduated with in 1985, haven’t seen in 30 years, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a great dad, and that he must be over the moon in love with his kids.
I have a friend who has a daughter in an engineering department at a University more than an hour away. He texts her every day. Just a “Hi.” Just looking for a response to make sure that she is ok. She just completed her senior project, and had to present her findings in front of a group of professionals. She had to do a “poster” presentation. He texted her every day prior to the presentation. He texted her ten minutes before the presentation with a “good luck” message. I watched him jitter and jive for two hours, waiting for her to tell him how it went. It went well. Two days later she called him, and told him that she and her partner had won the poster presentation, and were getting checks. The pride……the pride in his voice while he told me, the glitter in his eyes….and not once did he talk about the cost of the horse, the cost of boarding the horse, the cost of the feed or the trailer, the many, many Saturdays that he loaded up a horse and gear and drove them all over the state. I get it. Taking care of the horse taught her responsibility, and to get up on the weekends. Barrel racing taught her confidence. Traveling all over taught her to be comfortable in her own skin and make friends wherever she went. Now, she is an independent young woman who can handle herself in any situation, who has drive and ambition, who expects to win, or at least plans to place. He would do it all over again.
The things that I have talked about here are extreme. Awards, touchdowns, homeruns…. your kid being a star. But, that is only the tip of the iceberg. For parents of kids with special needs, it is a whole lot more. Every good parent of every special needs kid I know, given the choice between winning a Nobel prize, getting a $100,000 award and getting their face on the cover of Newsweek versus having their kids take their first step; every one of those parents would say, “I’d like my kid to take their first step, please.”
If your kid has overcome a learning disability, if your child has overcome social anxiety, if your child has overcome losing a parent, or trauma…. you are my hero. Very few people in this world understand what a parent has to do, and give up, to help a child overcome. It is pure devotion. Pure love.
So, yes, kids are expensive, and require all of your time. This week, despite being a parenting blogger, I kind of lost it for an hour or two looking at the calendar and expense. But, trust me, when I signed up for the Senior picnic, I wasn’t thinking about the time. I was thinking about the opportunity to watch my eldest with his friends on the last week of school before they all scatter. When I watch him walk down the aisle, I won’t be contemplating the cost of the gown and hat. When I take his picture before he gets in the car with his prom date…I won’t care about how much it costs. I’ll be grateful for the photo op. Grateful that I was there to see it, grateful that he got to go.
Is parenting worth it? Of course it is. Everything hard, meaningful and that creates intensive emotions is worth it…. but it costs. I’ve talked about the time costs, and the money costs, but do you know what the real cost is? The real cost is sitting here in May, understanding that my baby is going to be three hours away four months from now, making his own decisions, dealing with his own issues, dealing with peer pressure….and that I better have done it right. Better have taught him everything important. Better have made it clear that if he is ever in doubt, I’ll be there in three hours, no matter what I have to cancel.
Parenting is watching your own heart walking around outside of your body, with no safety gear, and no net. It is like jumping out of an airplane – absolute exhilaration, while at the same time being sure that you are going to die.
Some shout outs today: You single parents going through this alone – my hero. You grandparents who are doing this at 68 on a fixed income – utmost respect. My friends who have gone through this, and I just saw it as a normal life transition…. I am so sorry that I didn’t understand that THIS, this sending a child off to be an adult was probably one of the most difficult experiences of your life. I get it now. Boy, do I get it.
To the graduating seniors this spring: Go you! Go! Do it! Be the best that you can be, and make your parents proud.
To the parents like me watching it all come to an end, or at least experiencing a huge change: Ouch. I’m with you. We’ll get through it, like generations before us. But, it’s hard. It is a pain, deep in the soul, that can’t even be explained to someone who hasn’t gone through it.
So yeah, parenting is worth it. But it costs. Oh my heart, it costs.