Monday, July 15, 2013

Cereal Box Wisdom

Kids are expensive, but not in the way you think.

Yes, they eat a lot, want name brand shoes and clothes, want the latest IPhone, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Those are the expenses you expect and commiserate about with other parents at polite dinner parties and barbecues in an Ephron-esque way.

But the expenses they don’t tell you about in “What to Expect While You're Expecting” or whatever book is currently THE book to read when you’re pregnant are the hidden fees and charges. It’s the cost of doctors, tutors, specialists, medication, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, when it turns out that perfect child of yours is “complicated.” It’s not college that’s going to put us into debt; my kid is struggling now, and I can’t buy him out of it, but I must pay the people who can help him through it.

So, I’ll take this job and that job, and my husband will make those 45 calls to find the in network specialist who is also highly recommended, and we will use our credit card checks to pay for the tutor, and I will stop visiting Target for therapy, and I will not spend extra money on organic vegetables, and I will cancel my Netflix subscription because my kid is not perfect, but he is extraordinary in his own right, and he can’t see it. And the world doesn’t get how hard he works each day without even knowing it to survive what seems normal to the rest of us. And if I can help him, than money will be no object.

And we are lucky. There are many who have it unspeakably harder than we do. And their children are extraordinary and expensive in all the ways they never expected.

And that is why I sometimes tear up when I’m choosing a cereal to buy, and I want the Cinnamon Chex, but it is $4.79 and the Post Raisin Bran is on sale for $2.50. But I don’t want Post Raisin Bran for dinner tonight (because now that I’m a grown-up I can eat cereal for dinner if I want), I was really looking forward to Cinnamon Chex, but it would be irresponsible of me not to get the cereal on sale, because that extra $2.29 will surely keep us from bankruptcy.

So I buy the Post Raisin Bran and I feel in control of something, even if only for an instant. An unrecognizable instant that won’t guarantee all good things for my kids, but it’s got eight essential vitamins and minerals, and it was only $2.50, and, in its own small way it contributed to the possibility of all good things for my kids.

So, yes, kids are expensive in predictable and unpredictable ways, but expensive and impossible are not the same things. I’ve learned many things from the back of a cereal box, but who knew that two scoops would make the impossible feel possible.


  1. This is beautiful, Mary. I will be sharing this link with many, many parents of child clients. Thank you.

  2. Hi, Mary- First of all, your writing is brilliant-- even without children, I enjoy reading your posts. It's im-POSS-ible for me to believe your kids are so grown-up (lifeguard?!) and that I've, therefore, known you guys so long. I only wish I got to see you more than just in passing.

    Second I really admire how you've managed to have a family, raise kids and develop a career you seem to love, which is so important. Just confirmation (and encouragement) for me that it's all possible.

    Your caveat "the only answers I have are the mistakes I've already made, etc." pretty much sums up my approach to life. Stay wonderful and thanks!

  3. Fred,

    Wow, thank you for those kind kind words. I, like you, wish our meetings were more than just chance drive-bys. All the best to you.