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The costs and benefits of raising children

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 and came up with $160,140! That doesn’t even touch college tuition. For those with kids, that figure leads to wild fantasies about all the money we could have banked if not for (insert your child’s name here).

For others, that number might confirm the decision to remain childless. But $160,140 isn’t so bad if you break it down. It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month, or $171.08 a week. That’s a mere $24.44 a day! Just over a dollar an hour! Still, you might think the best financial advice would say not to have children if you want to be “rich.” It is just the opposite. What do you get for your $160,140?

Naming rights. First, middle, and last! Glimpses of God every day. Giggles under the covers every night. More love than your heart can hold. Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs. Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies. A hand to hold, usually covered with jam.

A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites, building sandcastles and skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain. Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day. For $160,140, you never have to grow up. You get to finger-paint, carve pumpkins, play hide-and-seek, catch lightning bugs and never stop believing in Santa Claus.

You have an excuse to keep reading Pooh’s Adventures with Piglet, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies and wishing on stars. You get to frame rainbows, hearts and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray-painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, handprints set in clay for Mother’s Day and cards with backward letters for Father’s Day.

For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof, taking the training wheels off the bike, removing a splinter, filling the wading pool, coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

You get a front-row seat to witness the first step, first word, first date and first time behind the wheel. You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you’re lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren.

You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there with God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever and love them without limits.

All so that one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.

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