Two of my kids have Post-it notes stuck to the fridge which read “Money Mom Owes Me.” The irony of this is not lost when I’ve known that the average cost of raising a child in Canada is approximately $300,000. That’s for one child. As the volume of children go up, the cost per child drops, presumably because of some shared expenses and hand me downs.

With four kids, money rarely physically stays on my person for more than a minute. It comes directly from the ATM, barely touching down into my wallet, before it goes out to the waiting hands of a retail merchant, school secretary, orthodontal receptionist, bored hockey rink attendant, or the outstretched arm poking from a fast food window. (Please note that none of these expenses can be shared between children. I’ve tried to negotiate used braces, trust me.)

My children are very aware of what “it’s too expensive” means (they have heard me say it approximately 2.7 million times, sometimes in reference to the mere existence of a younger sibling), whether it’s the toonie for the vending machine which spews out a five cent plastic ring, all the way up to some coveted pair of $200 running shoes. Not that this stops them from asking me for these and other things, over and over again. Part of me gives them credit (not literally) for continuing to ask for more and more. Their eternal optimism is impressive, if not hopelessly misguided and futile.

I feel like parents today seem to have more expenses than previous generations did. I think this is partly because of safety concerns, but also it’s also somewhat due to our own gullibility in believing what they really “need.” Some of the things I spend money on for my children that I’d like to cut back on include: the “indoor runners,” a different helmet for each of the head-cracking activities my kids are involved in, the endless supply of Slushies which every hockey arena offers, $10 mandatory school agendas, postage stamp-sized games for handheld electronic units which are only “unlost” for the first two hours, the “book orders” which come home from school but have more computer games and plush toys than books on order, and every piece of overpriced merchandise that features a talking sponge or a transforming truck. Throw in all of the organized sports’ fees (including the amount which goes to cover the “trophies for all” strategy), and it’s not hard to do the math on why I find myself eyeing up their piggy banks and occasionally borrowing from them.

The only comfort I have is knowing that by the time they become parents themselves, there will likely be 16 more types of helmets they’ll have to buy for their own kids. And I’m not extending or expecting any credit for that.

This article first appeared in Huffington Post and can be found at this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kathy-buckworth/children-expensive_b_1967338.html

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