Our ‘baby,’ Grace, just had a birthday. If babies turn into toddlers at that magical age of two, for the first time in about seven and a half years we are ‘officially’ without a baby at our house. To be honest I’m not quite sure what to think about all this. While Kim is one to get nostalgic about these sort of ‘milestones and maybe shed a tear or two about how she’s lost her ‘babies,’ I can’t help but notice that slowly, slowly but surely, these kids are getting more and more expensive! I’m finally getting it now – that’s how the con works – everybody says how cheap babies are. Why, when they are tiny they barely eat. They aren’t much trouble at all and they’re SO cute. And if you get cloth diapers you won’t even have to pay for those. By the time they grow older and really start costing, you’re already hooked.
Well, the cloth diapers lasted about a week (gross!). And sure, other than the aforementioned costly and quite numerous disposable diapers, even adding in the baby strollers, baby bottles, baby plates, baby utensils, baby washcloths and towels (because babies can’t possibly use a normal washcloth don’tcha know – it has to be a BABY washcloth), baby soap, baby shampoo (you know, no tears…), baby teething rings, baby blankies, baby cribs, baby food (unless you want to crush it yourself, but who has time for that?), and a gazillion other baby things (many of which, if you’re lucky, you get in a baby shower), babies really aren’t all THAT expensive. They don’t quite pay for themselves, but hey, the cuteness factor mostly makes up for it (that and the fact that people smile at you a lot and hold the door open for you even if you’re a guy). Sure, they’re more expensive than advertised, but it’s doable…
Doable that is, until they start getting older. Suddenly, there are expenses we hadn’t thought of before – school expenses and various activities they want to get involved in (hey, learning piano isn’t free!). Shoes cost more (so expensive, and yet they seem to be so cheaply made), and if they haven’t worn them out in a couple of months they jump a size, EVERY YEAR. Same with clothes, which for some reason tend to cost more the older they get. Same with toys – Nathaniel, for some reason, isn’t quite as happy with Elmo as he was when he was two. Now he likes HE-MAN. Thank you, NetFlix, for hooking my son on a show from the 80’s where the only figurines and toys available are COLLECTIBLES. Goodbye Walmart and yard sales, helloooo EBAY $60 Castle Grayskull that still has dirt on it from 1982. At least Nathaniel paid for this out of his allowance, which reminds me… that costs more too!
Don’t get me started on food. Nathaniel is seven and skinny as a rail. We’re not sure where he puts all the food he’s eating lately, but we’re pretty sure his leg is hollow. He’s asking for (and eating all of) adult meals at restaurants when we eat out. He asks for seconds and sometimes thirds at dinner. Our little cheap baby boy is quickly becoming a real cost liability, and he’s not getting any smaller. Neither are the girls. They eat like birds now, but that won’t last forever.
I was talking with a friend today who has two pre-teen girls, bragging about how we can go to a restaurant on kid’s night, bring a coupon or discount card and get out for way less than $20. She said she’s lucky to get out of a restaurant for less than $50. Her grocery bills are sky-high. When she goes on vacation they have to get adjoining rooms. They pay full price at amusement parks. There are no (gasp) kid meals. No discounts for kids. No freebies. No nothing… just pay, pay, pay until, until… is there an end that comes before we’re too old to enjoy it? For a second I glimpsed our future, except TWICE as bad (we have 4 kids – they have 2). Let’s not even mention college or I might just start crying right now… Basically, our retirement plan at this point is a fifty under the mattress, a box of raisins, and hoping one of the kids will take us in!
Now please don’t get me wrong, this is satire – sure I’m pretty cheap (yeah, don’t ask my wife), but I do love my kids and I’ll gladly pay what I have to, even if it means a spot under the poorhouse. The gravy train of kid freebies might be ending, but I’m told the fun is just beginning in SO many ways. And hey, the bigger they get the more (theoretically) they can help around the house, right?!?
That said, I do have a proposition for establishments that give discounts to seniors. Consider giving parents of kids a discount too (besides the free kid’s meal that ends when they are three)! It’s one thing to give a discount to some loaded retiree so he can get a cheap early bird dinner after his morning (discounted) golf game. Sure, we love our old folks, but why not toss a bone to the people who are raising America’s future? Now THAT would be change we can believe in!