There’s one major cost that’s never factored in
An article in USA Today says it costs $233,610 (not counting college tuition) to raise a child these days. This includes everything from labor and delivery to child care, food, clothing, shoes, illness, haircuts, diapers, sports, video games, and probably even a Jurassic Park Jeep Wrangler or Barbie’s Ultra Dream House.
But there’s one major cost that’s never, ever factored in. You never hear the experts mention costs incurred from the destruction of your home. Kids are a force that, once unleashed, have the capacity to annihilate anything in their path.
I don’t remember when I first noticed the insanely expensive increase in home repair costs, but it must have occurred around the time my children moved from infancy to mobility.
Shortly after my daughter could walk, she became an artist. She was supposed to be tucked in and sound asleep following thirty bedtime stories, but instead she got hold of my sharpies and produced a mural that spanned the entirety of her bedroom. The next morning, smiley faces, unicorns and dinosaurs pranced across the canvas of her walls as she, smudged with the residue of her efforts, grinned proudly.
It took many, many coats of paint to erase all remnants of her artistic endeavors.
But at least sharpies weren’t as bad as my granddaughter’s art material of choice. We were visiting my son and his family when his wife charged downstairs shouting, “Emma has smeared poop all over her walls!”
“Are you sure it isn’t chocolate?” I asked hopefully.
“No. Definitely poop.”
I went upstairs to see for myself, but stopped short at the door without going in.
It was poop.
This took a lot of washing and bleaching, in addition to a new coat of paint.
But the worst art is the kind neither Clorox nor paint can conceal. My grandson’s decision to use a ball point pen to etch his creative work into our flat screen TV is forever etched in my memory. Following the damage, we moved the TV to the workout room where it is an ongoing reminder of the downside of turning your back on a toddler.
Artistic pursuits aren’t the only culprits adding to unmentioned home repair costs. There was the chin up bar my boys decided to nail into their bathroom wall. When they tested it, down came chin up bar, sheetrock and all.
Before that, they blew up the microwave warming McDonald’s French fries, 10 minutes on high. And there was the time one of them rubbed a rock across the dining room table (to see if it was hard as a diamond). When they were too old to play with rocks, one son (I forget which one) backed a car into the garage door.
Lest you think my kids and grandkids are hooligans, I’ll share a couple of stories from outside the family unit. I was having dinner with a friend and the table was set with her best China until she pulled out plastic forks.
I must have looked surprised, because she said, “Oh, I didn’t mean to use plastic.” Replacing the forks with nice cutlery, she added, “I forgot it’s just us grownups tonight. I make the grandkids use plastic because they throw my silverware away.”
“Your grandkids throw your silverware away?” I repeated, baffled.
“Yes, I was missing forks. Then I noticed the four-year-old dropping forks in the trash. Better than putting silverware down the garbage disposal, I guess.”
Which reminded me of the time my grandson asked what would happen if he tossed a penny in the garbage disposal. “Don’t do it,” my husband warned. But I”m sure you can guess what happened next.
In response to my friend’s cutlery explanation, another friend chimed in and said, “Throwing forks in the trash is nothing. You know that big glass mirror that covers one wall of our exercise room? One of the kids hurled a shoe and cracked it.”
You can see from this brief recital of child-rearing highlights that kids are expensive in more ways than experts give them credit for. So if you’re a parent or a grandparent, batten down the hatches and prepare for the unexpected, which you really can’t prepare for anyway.
One interesting aside to all this is how particular my daughter has become in adulthood. This girl who used to traipse across our carpet in muddy horseback riding boots makes me take my shoes off as soon as I get inside her house.