Family Saturday: But That Costs More Than My Undergraduate Degree

17637780-green-icon-growing-currencyThis isn’t a rant about the cost of living. Okay, maybe it’s partly a rant about the cost of living, but it goes deeper than that. One recent study says that it can cost anywhere between $150,000 and $450,000 to raise a child without factoring the price of college tuition. My WH and I have four kids. You can do the math. My point isn’t so much about how much it costs, but where does the money go? Some of what we spend is necessary. All four need food, clothes, and shelter. Some of what we spend isn’t necessary. Private preschool? Cell phones? Entertainment? So why do we spend money on these items.

Preschool. All four of my kids have attended private preschool. My WH did the math. It costs more to send our twins to private preschool than it cost for him to go through pharmacy school. Why do we do it? A little bit revolves around my new career. I’m a writer, and in the past week, my home state has been hit with a flurry of bad weather, bad enough to cancel school for my two oldest for four days and my youngest two for two days. On Wednesday, I attempted to work in the basement. Kath kept asking me if I wanted to play with Gandalf, our bunny who lives in our finished basement. MJ came down several times to escape the twins. Cupcake and Chunk came downstairs to play with the bunny and stayed downstairs to “help” me. Yep. Lots of warm fuzzies, not a lot of editing.

A little bit of why we send them to private preschool revolves around socializing. With five of us being introverts (sorry, Cupcake, you’re the lone extrovert), getting acclimated to being around other kids before preschool has been a good thing. Before Kath started her pre-K class in her private preschool, the dayschool director pulled me aside. She wanted to know if I wanted to keep Kath in this particular class because there was a child with Down’s Syndrome in the same class. My answer was swift and without hesitation. Yes, I wanted to keep Kath in this class. Beyond any doubt, I want all of my kids to love people and embrace life.

Cell phones. I’m pretty old fashioned. Kath, our teenager, has a cell phone. MJ, our tween, does not. Wherever MJ goes, there should be an adult and that adult will either have a cell phone or access to a landline. There may be some people shaking their heads at my line of reasoning, but as of now, MJ doesn’t need a cell phone. Kath does not have a smartphone. She has a perfectly good, serviceable cell phone. And with it come stipulations. If we go out to dinner, she eats with us and doesn’t text or talk on her phone. If we go to her grandparents’ house, she talks to them rather than her friends on the phone. At Disney World, I gave her some time to use her phone, but most of the time, she couldn’t. It was a family vacation, and she’s family. We do know, however, that she has an active life and a cell phone is a necessity. There are often times she has to text me saying practice is done early or an event is going to be on time or not. For her safety and my peace of mind, the cell phone has become a line item in our budget with the understanding that there are times she can use it but there are times, like the dinner table, that the cell phone is not welcome.

Entertainment. Being a family of six means that we don’t go out to movie theaters a lot. But that’s not an excuse for not doing family activities together. When I arrived home last night, the five of them were playing Settlers of Catan. They are already talking about playing the Seafarers expansion pack tonight. We try to have movie nights. Bringing Up Baby was a mixed success. Cupcake had the line of the night: “When are they going to switch to color?” So every so often we splurge a little. Last year, we all went miniature golfing on vacation. Chunk so wants to go golfing again. He wouldn’t mind if we went bowling either. The twins are getting older and once again, some entertainment options, like bowling and miniature golfing, are becoming viable. Splurging? Yes. Memories? Priceless.

That’s not to say I don’t try to look out for free entertainment options. Cupcake and Chunk already prefer one local library branch to the one closest to us. Books and DVDs are available for free rentals. Free, of course, being one of my favorite words. A world of music, fictional venues, and movies is at our disposal whenever we go to the library. We go often.

Today would have been my grandmother’s eighty-sixth birthday. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about Gram. From the name everyone knew her by-Jinx-to her generosity, she was one of a kind, and I’m not just fortunate to have had her as a grandmother, I’m also fortunate to have known her. I’m getting tears in my eyes just thinking about her. When I think about raising her great-grandchildren, I realize there are times I think about what things cost and then I let it go. Gram was one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. The memories I have of her are priceless. So sometimes I do need to drop everything and take all of them to the zoo. When Kath called me from Boston, I was thankful for her cell phone. And on Monday, when all four of them are in school, I’ll be editing my latest book, remembering how proud Gram was of me and my cousin and how much she loved her family. So yes, it costs a lot to raise children. But now, I’m going to wrap this up and go home early and give them a hug for Gram.

I always end by trying to think of some interactive question for those who take the time to read my blog (and a huge thank you to those who read this very long blog). What’s been the biggest splurge in your life lately? Let me know.

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