They say kids cost about $250,000 each to raise. I have no idea how accurate that figure has been for my parents, but I can tell you that now I’m grown, I no longer resent my parents for not taking us travelling (airfares are bloody expensive and they did a lot of their travel pre-kids), buying secondhand clothes and only ever shopping supermarket specials.
Through braces, swimming and tennis lessons, music classes, library fines and more, they spent thousands on non-essentials for me. I have to say, though, they got lucky: I was never a kid who nagged for stuff. I simply don’t like asking for things, and for some reason I was always a little bit scared of my parents somehow. I can only think of one instance in which I sort of pushed to buy a pair of orange boardshorts (they were like $10 at The Warehouse) when I was younger, and I got my way. Thing is, they were on the small side to start with, I was a growing kid, and they only lasted a summer. Fail.
But the day I truly, honest-to-God realised I was expensive for my parents was the day I told them not to send me to One Day School. It was a programme for ‘gifted’ kids who weren’t necessarily being challenged at normal school. We went to see the place – I vaguely remember it looking somewhat uninspiring, to be honest – and then came the big question: did I actually want to go?
I can’t remember if I asked, or if they randomly disclosed to me how much it cost, but either way, the financial aspect came up. The details are a bit hazy to me today, but I’m pretty sure I worked out that one day there would be the equivalent of one or two hours’ pay for my dad. (Ah, ye olde hours-worked formula! Keeping us in check since the beginning of capitalism!) Of course, today that seems quite reasonable to the adult me, but to the 8-year-old me that seemed an outrageous expenditure. What a heinous waste of money, I reasoned – there was no good justification for it. I hadn’t been all that taken by my first impressions of ODS anyway, so I said we should forget the whole thing. And we did.
Don’t for a moment think I missed out on anything. I was perfectly happy in mainstream school, reading years ahead of my age level in my spare time and agonising over my social awkwardness. Really, English was the only thing I was advanced in – I was most definitely average in all other subjects. (And being less than totally exceptional is something I’m more than okay with. Genius is a burden, and often the greats among us are deeply tortured souls. RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.)
For a kid who really just wanted to fit in – who still had a slight accent, wore weird clothes and wasn’t sporty – going to a special school one day a week would probably have been the worst way to prove I was just like everyone else. I’m sure a much more deserving and needy kid would have filled my spot.
(This post was inspired by Young Adult Money!)