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January 17, 2015

empty walletI adore my children. Truly!  Every single minute of every day I am thankful that they are in my life.   But today I am seriously questioning our return on investment in the fundamental parenting cost outlays.  I am talking about my oldest prodigal son, bless him, I love him with all my heart and soul.  He is smart, witty, kind and living in a bubble of collegiate existence completely oblivious to daily life in the real world.   I would take a bullet for him and God forbid anyone tries to purposefully hurt him – Mama Bear will make them pay.  But as we sit here trying to balance our checkbooks and look at the financial outlay in electronics for this child in the past month – I can’t help but wish for a time machine to take us back to parenting in the day and age where the essentials of survival did not include things with a charging device. I suspect we may be singlehandedly keeping the economy afloat with our direct monetary bleeding this past month.

It started with a heart-sinking phone call in early December.   My big boy’s laptop had been stolen from his room in the fraternity.   He had finished a twelve page paper, set the laptop aside, threw some clothes over it so that it wasn’t sitting out in direct view (the apparent frat boy method of “security”) and came back a few hours later to find both pc and paper had vanished.  He reported the crime to the police, questioned his house mates and blustered on twitter about everyone being on the lookout for a black laptop with ski stickers all over it – but to no avail. The paper had to be completely re-written and the parents had to start looking at all the newspaper inserts for laptop sales. Collegiate activity pretty much requires a computer in this day and age and our suggestion of paper tablets and Bic pens for the next semester was not found amusing.  Therefore, part of December entailed researching and purchasing a new computer so he could continue being an academic success rather than that guy in the gorilla suit holding the mattress sale sign on the street corner.    $Cha-Ching.$

The other item seemingly essential element to collegiate achievement is a cell phone.  Our prodigal son was set up with an extremely expensive smart phone late last summer since the previous one had lived a long and fruitful life.   Clever old Mrs. Santa Claus gifted him with a portable charging port in his stocking for Christmas.  Upon first use of this nifty little gadget, said expensive smart phone shorted out and expired.  The not very helpful persons at the TMobile store were unsure if it was the charger itself, a fault in the cell phone or a single act of God that caused the demise.  Nonetheless, my Usually Lovely Husband was forced to fork out another $800 for a new phone three days before we sent the prodigal man child back to University.  $Cha-Ching.$ He also purchased the not-so-inexpensive insurance plan for the phone $Cha-Ching.$ and pointed out (not for the first time) that he himself, the guy who kept doling out cash for electronics, now had the most outdated phone and oldest computing device within the family unit.

(Historical Note – the youngest prodigal son drove off and left his rather old and outdated phone on top of his car in October requiring a new upgrade and phone as well.  Accident? We’ll never know.) More $Cha-Ching.$

The oldest son returned to his university with state of the art phone and computing devices last Saturday and my Usually Lovely Husband shook out his wallet, waggled his head, mumbled a few times about being mistaken for an ATM machine and we all continued on our merry ways.

Tuesday afternoon I was carefully working my way through my usual tasks when the house phone rang and I saw that my U.L.H. was calling.  I cheerfully answered and was BLASTED with an earful of profanity and a ranting diatribe so loud that my deaf old dog actually raised his head from across the room.   From what I could discern through the spitting and blustering on the other end – some type of electronic mishap involving a toilet had occurred.  Oh. My. God.

talking-on-thephone-on-the-toiletBut indeed.  The $800 cell phone which is fully insured for everything except water damage had been submerged.  I shudder to think about what those fraternity toilets may contain.  Water damage could be the least of that phone’s problems.

Needless to say The Bank of Dad has reached a maximum withdrawal status.  The president of that particular bank is currently rendered speechless and may need heavy sedation in the form of wine or vodka to speak in pleasant verbiage about the joys of fatherhood anytime in the near future.  Before we even decide how to move forward dealing with “the poo phone” (as the younger brother has now dubbed the unfortunate cellular device) our current output of funds on electronics for ONE child is more than a full year of tuition back in the Stone Age when I attended university.  Does anyone else find this shocking?

CMW - TP in phoneMeanwhile, the eldest prodigy seems to think that Samsung, TMobile and his parents are without humanity for not handing over a new phone to him.  It will cost $150 through the device insurance for him to get a replacement phone. As the family finance coordinator – I happen to know his bank account balances.  Dismal.  “Social fees” have taken a toll on his summer earnings.  His current logic dictates “all the jobs he has applied for can’t contact him because he doesn’t have a phone.”  He may have to sell his plasma to get this kind of cash in a hurry.  Are we bad parents for giving him the insurance information and the address for the closest TMobile store and telling him “Good luck”? Will he survive these formative years as a pariah without cell and internet service at his fingertips 24/7?   I am sincerely missing the days when the biggest issue with this child was trying to get him to eat a green vegetable.

So here we sit wondering how he’s doing across the state.  I already deeply miss my regular text communication with him already but my conscience feels it is time for him to make choices and feel the pain of digging deep into his pocket and finding lint.

It’s a conundrum.  What would you do?

Side Note:  We have now found out about renters insurance through the University which is inexpensive and helps cover things like theft and damage.   I encourage all persons who have students or who are a student or who may someday have a student at University to purchase this.   I also slap myself upside the head for automatically thinking our home owner’s insurance would cover these things.  They do – but with a very high deductible and the almost assured risk of having our rates go up if we claim anything.  My U.L.H. voiced irritation over this expense as well.  We’re having some “lively” discussions at my house these days and many of them seem to end with my U.L.H. reminding me that I was the one who wanted kids.  He simply wanted a boat.