Some advice for all you expectant parents out there. I'm sure you're giddy with anticipation over the prospect of a new little one in your life. someone to love, to care for and, most importantly, to pay for. I'm sure you've got the nursery all ready, the pantry stocked with Enfamil and various jars of pureed vegetables, and the budget for the next several years solidified and ready for the little one to invade your life. You're ready to be Supermom and Superdad, right? We laugh at you, you silly young waifs. Here's a few things I bet you never thought of for that budget.
No, I'm not talking about your little one's birthday party. That's enough of a financial drain in itself, what with the required passage through the worlds of Build-A-Bear, MyGym, and giant backyard BBQ's. I'm talking about the friends' birthdays. As your child enters toddlerhood and begins to attend preschool, it's a requirement that she invite each and every classmate to her birthday party. Likewise, she's obligated to attend each one of their birthday parties. Each birthday party will out-do the last, and don't think for a MOMENT that you're not required to do the same. So plan on about twenty bucks a kid for presents. Plan to spend each and every weekend being dragged by your toddler to Build-A-Bear to go through the same ursine manufacturing process you did the previous week until she's amassed a quantity of stuffed bears no human should have to tend to. My advice to you? Train your child to become a pariah, loathed by each and every one of her classmates. It's cheaper in the long run, and scars will heal. Who knows, your socially awkward child might grow up to write a blog or something.
Kids love to draw. Expect that your printer will never be in proper working order. Expect that the paper tray will always be found on the floor under your desk after your kid has ransacked it in an effort to obtain clean media for her latest bit of artistry. Plan on about a ream of paper,per month, per kid. With the economy the way it is, save money by swiping paper from the office, since chances are good your company won't be around in the next fiscal quarter anyway. Oh, also consider space allocations in your home, as every flat surface in the house will eventually be piled high with your child's artwork. There's the stuff she makes at home, the stuff she makes in preschool, the stuff she scribbles on the back of the Denny's menu...none of it can be thrown away as it's all entirely too special and important and your child will still be healing from the wounds of not being invited to her classmates' birthday parties so don't injure her pride further by throwing something out. That sheet of 8-1/2" x 11" with the two messy crayon circles on it? Better get it out of the trash right now and put it up on the fridge before she notices what you tried to do. As if to demonstrate my point, Jessica just walked up to me asking, "Dad? Can I have a piece of paper?" I'd tell her to check the recycling bin, but if she does she'll find the pile of her drawings I threw out the other day and call me an evil ogre for doing so.
Another advantage to making your child the preschool outcast is that it will enable her to avoid physical contact with other children. If your child is unlucky enough to have a friend or two, then plan for the worst. By the 3rd day of the first school year, she will have her first ear infection. The following week will bring a case of strep. After that, another ear infection, with diarrhea. And just in time for your upcoming vacation, she will pass all those diseases over to you, knocking you flat on your back for the rest of the month. Get to know your local pharmacist. You'll be there often. I should also mention that you should plan to add an extra closet to the kids' bathroom dedicated to the storage of Childrens' Tylenol, Vaporub, and humidifiers in the shape of Hello Kitty. As I write this, my wife is picking up Jessica's latest prescription, this time for an ear infection with pus on her tonsils.
This one has been discussed by many a blogger in the recent past, but it's worth mentioning again. As a dutiful helicopter parent (a term I just learned last night), you will need to make a multitude of decisions about how to get your child out of the house when school is done for the summer. But telling your child to simply go play outside is NOT an option. There are evil things in your neighborhood. A skeevy man with thick glasses and beady eyes is camped out at the end of your street at this very moment, waiting for a lone toddler to wander just a little too far from his front door, so the child can be swept up and shipped to an overseas white slavery ring. There are packs of wild dogs roaming your neighborhood right now, on the hunt for an afternoon snack. And since chances are good little Timmy has some syrup from this morning's breakfast still on his new outfit from Childrens' Place, if the wild dogs don't get him the swarm of bees will. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, camp. Start writing checks now. There's preschool camp. Bible camp. Art camp. soccer camp. Acting camp. Piano camp. Attitude Adjustment camp. Band-Aids and Booboos camp. Learn to be a Vegetarian camp. Send your child to all of them, for if you skip even one, come fall your child will be even more of the social pariah than she already is, having missed out on an opportunity to learn how not to fend for herself over the summer. Oh and of course, don't you dare try to schedule your own child for camp independently of the scheduling of the other children in her class. If your son's best friend is going to Paint Your Own Pottery camp, you'd better damned well send your son there at the same time, even if he thinks painting your own pottery is for sissies.