Tonawanda News

February 11, 2013

Raising children -- where does the money go?

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Most estimates have parents spending more than $200,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18.

I am now convinced every last dime of that is either pooped or thrown away.

Many times, it’s a combination of the two, actually. The next time I take either Penny or Rigby out to eat and they consume all their food might just be the first time. Penny loves collecting samples of everyone’s food and taking one bite from each, while Rigby generally drinks a cup of milk, sucks down one bite of macaroni and then runs laps around the table until Usain Bolt looks over and remarks how long Rigby’s been running.

Anyway, even after only 51/2 years of parenting, I can’t help but look at our lives sometimes and wonder where the thousands of dollars we’ve spent have gone. 

I certainly know where many of them have gone, though. Every time I take a step and hear a dinosaur’s head crunch under my foot, I see another couple bucks go into the garbage can.

Whenever the kids pour three-quarters of a bowl of Kix into the sink, garbage or on the floor, I see dollar bills drift away in the wind.

When Penny tells me she bought an ice cream at school but was too full for a single bite, I imagine whether it’d have been more fun setting the dollar on fire.

We’re thankfully now out of diaper stage, but cleaning up nuclear-level dookies represented the ultimate insult added to the injury of spending money to catch ... well, you know.

I love being a dad, mind you, and I would do anything for my babies. But every semi-regular trip I make to drop off more bags of toys to donate at the local charity box makes me think there are different — dare I say, better — things I could be doing with them if that money I was now giving away was still in hand.

Yet I can’t fight the urge I get to make my kids happy with some small token. If I take Rigby shopping, then I know we’re coming home with at least a couple of those little lunch packs that contain about 7 cents’ worth of meat and cheese. But I get them because he gets such a thrill out of eating them. Same goes for anything related to “Toy Story” or Hello Kitty we may find in our thrift store ventures, as well as “really good deals” to be found at closeout stores.

In signing them up for baseball this summer, I know it won’t just be the enrollment fee, but week after week of post-game ice cream cones and raffle tickets. And even though it will result in paying for two meals, gas and tolls, I want more than anything to take the kids to the Strong Museum of Play once again.

So what causes this? I want to teach the kids happiness doesn’t come from money, and I complain (way more than I did up at the top of this story) about the worthless stuff that continually accumulates in our house. But — in spite of my best efforts and frequent victories — I still sometimes cave in.

I think there are two parts. The first is parents want the best for their kids. Most of us didn’t come from the best situations as kids, so we want to pass on a better childhood for our babies. Even if we did, we want our kids to be as happy as we were. And we don’t remember most of the toys we had as kids, but we remember those few special ones that became a part of us (for me, it was my Nintendo Entertainment System). So we want to give our kids the best odds possible of finding a similar bond, as silly as a bond with an inanimate object may be.

The second is biological. Years of sleep deprivation, insufficient nutrition and “Blue’s Clues” alter a parent’s DNA and brain. Thus, no matter how illogical it is to buy another Buzz Lightyear stuffed doll and how much you’ll regret it an hour later when your son throws it at his sister’s head, you fork over the money.

And you ensure another trip to the charity box in a couple months. But you generally don’t think of that in the moment, and even if you do you justify the action by imagining the smile you’ll get upon giving the gift.

Being money-conscious is a noble trait for a parent. It’s mandatory, really, and being in this spot makes me remember back to my single days and when I thought I was broke then. And I laugh hysterically at that thought.

But anyone could do the same at me if they see me buying Rigby a value meal or Penny a Barbie doll. Because I’m helping dig my own grave and seemingly erasing any right I have to moan about finances.

I’d rather you not laugh, though. Instead, you’d be much more helpful if you offer to grab one of the bags of toys I’m about to go donate.

If you want to send a dollar my way, even better. Friday is ice cream day for Penny.

Contact Paul Lane at pjlnews@ymail.com.