September start-line

September start-line

And they’re OFF! Visa is first off the block with shoes and piano lessons, but coming in fast is Paypal with swim class, footie fees and a spanking new book bag. Bringing up the rear’s Mastercard with name tags, pencils and multi-coloured Sharpie bonus pack (ever so handy in a pinch when said name tags are perpetually lost in the post), but as they round the bend it’s AmEx overtaking from the outside with karate club, violin and rugby. It’s a photo finish…. and.. and… AmEx TAKES IT it by a school uniform!

Sound familiar? If January is when we all feel the poorest, September runs a close second for most eye-wateringly expensive month of the calendar– start of school compounded by that last minute package holiday in Portugal coming due, (when half-board efforts to sustain the clan on clementines and croissants swindled from the breakfast bar are an epic failure and come 2pm you relent to gorge on £30 chicken goujons) my wallet’s smoking and bank balance is running on fumes. NEWSFLASH– Kids are expensive. No, I mean really expensive– charming (or not), little non-amortising cost centres in whom we willingly invest regardless of return.

This is hardly groundbreaking.

But there’s also another side to it, one we whisper for fear it may disqualify us from our moan-y, humble-braggynes, which is that we, as parents, are in no small part to blame.  Now, now… I’m not proposing we let our children live in shoeless Dickensian squalor, much of this is unavoidable. Children grow, needs must, I get it, yadda yadda. But it’s in September I’m engulfed in a wave of competitive parenting and feel the urge to toss the ole’ offspring into every extra-curricular club and activity my wee, (apparently) stimulation-starved children can manage. We probe, prod and surreptitiously interrogate fellow child-rearers to see what super-human schedule they’ve inflicted on little Luka as a yard stick for our own efforts. It’s demented, afflicted as we are with a  sort of middle-class masochism, rushing our offspring hither and thither– from judo to gymnastics, drama to didgeridoo lessons risking our sanity and bank balance in equal measure in the misguided fear if we’re not filling their diaries with every available enriching, educational or athletic pursuit they’re pre-destined to a future flipping burgers. (NOT that there’s anything wrong with this, lest you cast me off as an elitist snob. Moi?)

Of course we all want to the best for our children, but I wonder if it’s a recipe for an early breakdown and lifetime of therapy. Heaven forbid we let our children get BORED. But I’ve discovered a bit of boredom goes a long way– with a little effort and dash of imagination it can invigorate, create and stimulate and gloriously, splendidly, fabulously… is FREE. I’m going to try to remember this the next time our Irish dance lesson is up for renewal, this or declare bankruptcy… whichever comes first. But must dash, time for little Timmy’s coding class. And so it goes.

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