My Babies

My Babies

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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Cost of a Child

As I was helping my mother go through some boxes of hers the other day, I found this treasure and wanted to share it with as many people as possible.  My mom is nearly blind now, a result of repeatedly detaching retinas.  She basically has, at best, 15% of her vision left.  So, she has been asking me to help her go through her things "while she can still see a little bit".  As extremely heartbreaking it is to me to realize that she is never going to be the same, this time is time that we both cherish.  So, being the sentimental romantic that she is (like mother like daughter), she has kept countless prayer books and favorite quotes and printed stories in boxes...just waiting for someone to read them with her.  So, this one is precious to me, for many reasons.  Keep in mind - my mother and father have seven children, and they did it all on one salary.  Only God knows how...but I have such gratitude in my heart for all that they did for us.

The Cost of a Child

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle-income family.  Talk about sticker shock.  That doesn't even touch college tuition.  For those with kids, that figure lends to wild fantasies about all the things we could have bought, all the places we could have traveled, all the money we could have banked if not for (insert child's name here).  For others, that number might confirm the decision to remain childless.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down.  It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month or $171.08 a week.  That's a mere $24.44 a day.  Just over a dollar an hour.  Still, you might think the best financial advice says don't have children if you want to be rich.

It's just the opposite.

There's no way to put a price tag on:  Feeling a new life move for the first time and seeing the bump of a knee rippling across your skin. Have someone cry, "It's a boy!" or shout, "It's a girl!" then hearing the baby wail or seeing your child of the heart for the first time and knowing love ties stronger than blood.  Cupping an entire head in the palm of your hand.  Making out "dada" or "mama" from all the cooing and gurgling.

What do you get for your $160,140?

Naming rights.  First, middle and last.  Glimpses of God every day.  Giggles under the covers every night.  More love than your heart can hold.  Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.  Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds and warm cookies.  A hand to hold, usually covered with jam.  A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites, building sandcastles and skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain.  Someone to laugh yourself silly with no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140, you never have to grow up.  You get to finger-paint, carve pumpkins, play hide-and-seek, catch lightning bugs and never stop believing in Santa Claus.  You have an excuse to keep reading the adventures of Piglet and Pooh, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies and wishing on stars.  You get to frame rainbows, hearts and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray-painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day and cards with backwards letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there's no greater "bang for your buck".  You get to be a hero just for retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof, taking the training wheels off the bike, removing a sliver, filling the wading pool, coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.  You get a front-row seat to history; to witness the first step, first word, first bra, first date, first time behind the wheel.  You get to be immortal.  You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren.  You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications and human sexuality no college can match.

In the eyes of a child - YOUR child - you rank right up there with God.  You have the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.