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Parenthood and the high cost of loving

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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 now?

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 the band.

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 ends.



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.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016