Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer, Kids, Money & Hostage Negotiations

"Become a teacher," they said, "you'll get your summers off."  Well, folks, teachers don't get their summers off when they have small children, and that goes for all stay-at-home adults.  You see...little kids are like terrorists.  They have one mission during summer vacation: Fun!  They don't care what you, the parent, have to do on any given day of the week.  In fact, they don't even care that you have to use the bathroom from time to time.  If you don't meet their demands, they'll be hell to pay.

Brain Freeze!

So this month I convinced my wife, Jessica, to allow me to take out both our children from part-time pre-school/daycare.  My kids were going twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursdays, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  These days coincide with my wife's 2-day a week work schedule as a dental assistant.  I was thinking that it made no sense to spend $600 this month when 1) I'm at home anyway and 2) We're going on a week long road trip to central and northern CA.  Tuesdays and Thursdays in mid to late June were pretty darn sweet for me.  I'd drop off the kids and have the whole day to myself.  I went on some long road bike rides, wrote more blog posts, and even published my latest book.

The first Tuesday I had alone with the kids was okay.  I took them to the park, the library, and ice cream.  We have a favorite ice cream shop.  It sells Mexican style ice cream.  Not only is it full of unique creamy and water-based flavors, but it's also cheaper than Cold Stones or Baskin-Robbins.  For $5 dollars, I can get two, one-scoop cups, and one, two-scoop cup.  Providing my kids with opportunities for physical activity and mental stimulation, without breaking the bank, was proving to be an easy task.  Until week two.

Yesterday, I had to go to Costco.  The wife wanted some salmon for dinner.  So I tell the kids what's on the agenda for the next couple hours.  My daughter, "Can we go to Trader Joe's?"

Me: No, I don't have to buy anything from there.  Both of you (my son was next to her) go get dressed.
My daughter: But I want to go to Trader Joe's!
Me with a stern voice: I need to go to Costco to buy salmon.  There's nothing I need at Trader Joe's.  Please go get dressed.

My son chimes in.  He just turned 4.

Son: No, daddy!  I'm not getting dressed unless you take us to Trader Joe's!

Pushing the small carts and getting a free lollipop was why they wanted to go to TJ.

There was no winning.  I agreed to their terms and took them to Trader Joe's if they agreed not to ask for anything at Costco.  Has this ever happened to you?  Are you currently being held hostage by your kids?  Do you have to constantly be in fear of being discovered every time you crack open your laptop, or sneak into the bathroom?  If are not alone.  Seek immediate help.

I have great kids.  They prefer playing to watching television.  That's a good thing, except...they always want me to join them.  It's like I'm part of the club.  So I play with them until I tire out.  Occasionally I read to them, give them cleaning "challenges," and even give them family science lessons with items in my kitchen or from their toy collection.  Last Monday Jessica and I took them to the mall.  A kiosk vendor had set up several iPads and chairs at kid eye level.  My kids ran to them.  (We have an iPad 2 at home).  What was loaded on the iPads?  I'd seen their commercials and had even tried to load it at home.  But upon seeing the price tag, I'd decided not to.

Getting a tour of the app made all the difference.  I really liked the various learning games and other activities that came with the app.  I also liked that you can build avatars for your kids and put their quest challenges at their age level.  I decided to give it a go.  Cost: $7.95 a month.  It amounts to another hour of adult time for me every day I have the kids all to myself.  And, another way my kids can learn during the summer.  (Note: I'm not getting paid to promote the app).

Some parents are willing to pay up to have their children experience busy summers.  You can pay for summer camps at the YMCA or other organizations, swimming lessons, camping trips, or just take your kids on multiple vacations.  For those that can't afford it, or who perhaps want to live more frugally, there are options like:

1) The park
2) The library
3) Play dates
4) The pool at a friend's house
5) Local gardens that only charge for parking
6) Museums
7) Small aquariums
8) Baby Zoos

Was taking them out of daycare/pre-school worth it?  

Despite it all, I'm enjoying the days with my children.  We're about to go on our road trip and the money we saved from not having them at pre-school will go far to pay for gas, and entrance and food at the S.F. Zoo.  You have to make hard decisions when it comes to money.  These decisions are even more complicated when kids are involved.  If you must make a money decision that will impact your kids, be prepared.  Don't wing it like me.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time.  
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