Priceless parenting experiences - FamilyEducation

Priceless parenting experiences

July 14,2008
When K-Man entered his first pre-pre-preschool program (it’s never too early to start practicing for the SATs), I was amazed by two things: The size of the check we needed to write each month, and the number of emails we received (daily?) asking us not only for more money, but also to help out with the neverending after (or before or during) school activities. As if it weren’t enough that most of the parents had full-time jobs on top of their full-time parenting responsibilities, now we had to be teachers and teachers’ aides, as well? K-Man was barely two years old – what would happen when he was five or six and involved in any number of other activities (sports, music, etc.), as well? Last night that very question was answered.

While enjoying what we would later find out to be a prohibitively expensive (to the point of being silly) dinner, some friends provided a glimpse into the future. Their (almost) six-year-old twins are deep into their first full season on a swim team (following in the footsteps of their former All-American, water polo playing, stud dad). They were telling story after story of the duties that came after the check cleared. Not only that, it turns out, writing the check didn’t even guarantee that they could watch their kids compete. They finally had to take their own stand.

Because of the oppressive (to us Californians) summer heat where they live, the parents of the swimmers set up tents the night before each swim meet, to stay out of the sun as their little pride-and-joys flop around in the water. Let’s just say that these friends weren’t quite organized enough to get their tents set up in time (plus there was quite a seniority pecking order) – so, they’ve ended up suffering through the swim season. But now they’ve taken care of it.

It seems they weren’t the only couple to miss out on the tent placement competition. So, with three other couples, they paid $1,700 at the team’s auction for the “rock star tent.” What does this mean? It means that they will have the best location, and most importantly, someone else will set up the tent for them. While they were busy trying to figure out if this made them bad parents, I was busy taking notes. I wanted to know more. And, there was more…

During their son’s Little League season, the parents needed to work some obscene number of hours in the snack shack. This isn’t so much “volunteer” time, either. It’s “thanks for the money, but that doesn’t guarantee any sort of playing time for your kid…you will work these hours or your son doesn’t get to play.” What’s even more stupid, however, is that they were scheduled to work a snack shack on a different field than the one their son was playing on. (Which is really idiotic.) No problem. They paid $300 to buy their way out of their “civic duty.”

At this rate, why not just offer different levels of registration fees? It’s $50 to sign up if you agree to work three hours (EVERY WEEKEND) in the snack shack, $150 for one hour each weekend and $350 if you want to “opt out.” (Our friends did cause quite the commotion, however, when they added a bit of “Irish” to their coffees. No, not for the kids.)

I suppose, on its surface, a point could be made that they are teaching their kids a horrible lesson that money can buy your way out of doing things you don’t want to do. But, I look at it another way – they have spent $2,000 because they wanted to have a closer view of their kids. All the money spent was so they could watch the swim meets from a better (albeit, more comfortable) location, and so they could watch the Little League games. (Tough to watch, though, when your kid is playing on an entirely different field.) So, I think they are teaching a valuable lesson: Kids first – whatever the price!

Of course, they did also pay $50 at the swim auction to have another parent take on the “rounding up the cats” task of getting a bunch of six-year-olds ready for their swim events and heats. That was more out of sheer laziness and not wanting to leave the “rock star tent.” (Wouldn’t want to risk spilling the Bloody Mary or Mimosa, after all!)

Rock Start Tent: $1,700
Buying Your Way Out of Snack Shack Duty: $300
Watching Your Kids Compete in Comfort: Priceless

That really is priceless.