Most new parents go through "baby sticker shock" when they
start to realize the cost of raising that dear, sweet,
precious little person - for 18 years.
Eighteen? Are you kidding? Try 22, with college. College! How
much will a year at college be more than two decades from
The Class of 2038 rules!
Veteran parents calmly assure the rookies that there's no
reason to panic. It's a little white lie, meant to preserve a
newcomer's endearing innocence, like stories of the tooth
fairy. They know the cold, hard fact is there are a lot of
reasons to panic ... but panicking doesn't help.
They tried that. Oh, how they tried.
Raising a child can feel like the economic equivalent of
death by a thousand cuts. None of them in itself a mortal
wound, but coming one after another, it can seem the
household budget is hemorrhaging money.
It seems that way because it is that way. A train carload of
diapers, a gazillion-dollar car seat, new clothes, new
clothes and more new clothes - some worn about one day and
then, poof, too small. My, how baby is growing!
- Health insurance, orthodontist, day care.
- Back-to-school items and school tuition or fees.
- Team uniforms and athletic shoes.
- Band instruments and music lessons.
- Plus, the annual fundraiser for the school, the team and
And on and on and on. And on.
As the years go by, as hair turns gray and wrinkles deepen, a
parent knows that at some point this no-longer-so-little
little one will be out and on his or her own. With an
education, with a job - not independently wealthy but not
dependent on Mom and Dad either.
To one degree or another that happens.
A sigh of relief, a self-administered pat on the back for a
job well done or at least done as well as a parent can.
But what's this? Amid the euphoria is a tiny, cold trickle of
That's when parents from the senior generation drop the other
shoe. They tell the new empty nester that having a child
isn't just about the high cost of living. There's also the
high cost of loving.
And they add - maybe you better sit down for this - it never
I remember when a veteran mom gave me the bad news. She was a
generation older than I was and the mother of nine children.
"How do you not worry about your kids all the time?" I asked
her after Mass one morning. She smiled. "I do," she said.
What! Well, that doesn't seem fair.
Bless her heart, she didn't mention the added concern of
grandchildren. I would find out about that later.
There's a reason senior moms and dads talk of "prayer lists."
To love one person includes praying for him or for her. To
love more than one, to love multiple generations, means a lot
of names, a lot of concerns and a lot of prayers.
But it's less an obligation and burden and more a privilege
and blessing because we old-folk parents know: This is
something I can do for that dear, sweet, precious little
person who is all grown-up now and has his or her own dear,
sweet, precious little person.
This is something I never want to stop doing. Not while I'm
still on earth.
Not when I'm in heaven.
Click here for
a prayer for parents.
Dodds can be contacted at BillDodds@YourAgingParent.com.