Evan and I just returned from our first camping trip to the Cosby Campground in the GSMNP. Greenbrier used to be my hideaway in the Smokies and is still one of my favorite spots. Cosby is on the Greenbrier side of the mountains and was a wonderful experience! Our scouts, their parents, their support, our pack, its support, the attitudes, the adventures and the weather were all great…better…they were perfect! This is one of those father/son bonding experiences that had so many precious moments that this trip will always hold a special place in my heart.
As a parent, I maintain an uncomfortable level of stress over family finances. I constantly think about my family’s health and the related expenses (forecasting braces, emergencies, regular checkups, etc.), education (saving for college, extracurriculars, making sure there are funds for participation in activities and providing necessary supplies – n.b. public education is far from free!, home schooling to supplement school teaching, family field trips, etc.), our bills (housing, utilities, etc), entertainment (for a balanced life, vacations – a rarity, toys, etc), food, maintenance, transportation….the list goes on and turns my stomach to think about the gross amount of money it takes to maintain a healthy and well-balanced family. I remember the very first time I held a $100 bill; it was so much money and seemed so unreal. Now, it feels like I regularly burn Ben Franklins.
One of the painful aspects of being a parent is realizing the opportunities presented to your children which they have to forego due to financial reasons. I regret not flying to Germany to watch The Wall being torn down during a Pink Floyd performance but I knew the sacrifices I would have made to make that trip and as a young adult I could accept those. A young child gets their hopes and dreams set on something like a camping trip and simply does not have the means to understand why we have to say no. Teenagers better understand but it still pains me to shoot them down.
So I stare at my calendar. An imaginary glow illuminates the critical dates where income appears in the bank and the due dates where bills suck the accounts dry. I see the dates of an 11 day hiking trip I scheduled with my son and his scout troop and ask myself, "will the family understand eating Ramen noodles for a month to make this trip happen?" Then the phone rings, "There’s an opening on this year’s Philmont trip. It’s the last time our district will send a contingent making this a once in a lifetime opportunity for your son. The cost is $2000 plus personal expenses." My heart sinks to my toes.
I was in front of my computer roughly 17 hours yesterday. Most of that was actually typing code. I am a Assistant Scout Master for my son’s Boy Scout troop although lately I have passed on meetings and activities in lieu of working. I skipped Monday’s meeting only to find out my son volunteered to be the grub master for this weekend’s trip. The way our troop works is one scout buys all the food for his patrol and is reimbursed. The idea is that the patrol plans the meal then the scout works with an adult to calculate portions and costs and buy the appropriate supplies. It is a good activity for developing their planning skills. The grub master should check the food pantry in the scout room for existing supplies (which I’m certain my son did not do). Unfortunately my son did not check with my secretary to see if I had one iota of spare time for this activity. Since their trip begins at the church at 5:45 today, Noah gets home from school with little time between school and the church, and Cathy will be doing her weekly trip to the Kentucky border this afternoon, I find myself faced with taking my lunch hour now to do Noah’s shopping for him. I should add that I don’t even get to go on this trip! (I very badly need a camping trip) This weekend they get to go to a fishing camp, clean and debone their food, cook it, and choose to eat powerbars instead.