Sunday, August 1, 2010

Burgeoning Baby Ballet Bucks

My friend and coworker, Niki Pocock, was a dancer from the time she was a little girl.  Since she has a young daughter, our conversation often turns to our daughters.  Her toddler is just starting to test the waters of children's activities; my teenager has been through dance, soccer, gymnastics, cheerleading, a few I have probably forgotten (but definitely paid for) and is now back at dance.  Her daughter is "little," mine is "big," but Niki and I both share big dreams for our children to find some path that brings them joy.

I appreciate Niki's guest post, in which she shares her experiences thus far in the world of children's activities (and parents' pocketbooks).  Niki blogs at It's All Wrong and you can find her on Twitter here: @NikiPocock.

My daughter is only 22 months old, but her extra-curricular classes already have put a dent in my wallet.

Now that I think about it, it started before she was born. My husband and I took the necessary childbirth class for $160 that at the end was unanimously voted as pointless (although I did meet a BFF there – we had baby girls within weeks of each other). If I heard that instructor talk about “normal” childbirth one more time I was going to strangle her. I was getting an epidural. No question about it. Back off, lady! Oh, and I just about passed out when I saw the video of a woman giving birth (I would later find out that my new BFF’s husband was having a great laugh at my progressively whiter complexion as the video went on).

Then there was the breastfeeding class (this one was actually helpful), and the breastfeeding support group (also helpful, as I walked in with tears in my eyes because it hurt so much. I survived and nursed my daughter for a full year – mostly because of the support from these women).

All of it? $$$$$ - Lots of it.

My daughter’s first class after birth was a Mommy and Me ballet class. This was a bit nostalgic for me because I danced ballet for 20+ years, including seven years performing with a company. The place she took her lessons was the same place I spent the majority of my dance life. But at $70 for just a summer semester (About $140 for the fall semester, PLUS a $50 costume AND recital tickets – not sure if that is going to happen), it hurt a bit. Oh, and then you have to get a leotard, tights and shoes (Did you know Payless has a line of American Ballet Theatre dance shoes? $17 vs. $30 at the local ballet boutique. I’m sold!)

And now we want to put her in swimming lessons. The local city pool offers $22 and $45 classes. Not bad, but that is just for a few weeks. We are thinking of putting her in a music class, but there is another $140 per semester, not including instruments and “take-home materials.” Do these people think we are made of money??? Aren’t we in a recession?

When you plan to have a child, you know about all the expenses that come with a baby. The hospital room, the crib, the clothes, etc., but hand-me-downs and baby showers work wonders. Even as my child grew I was set because my parents are in town and buy her everything under the sun (including aforementioned ballet leotard, tights and shoes). But what about these classes???

I hereby publicly thank my parents for paying for 20+ years of ballet classes (and pointe shoes at $60-80 a pop) and for attending all of my performances. My dad encouraged me to quit on numerous occasions; after all, I wasn’t going to dance the rest of my life. But the discipline and drive that I learned during my dance years has shaped more of my personality today than anything else my parents did.

The benefits set aside, I can tell you that my daughter had better be the best kid in the world if she expects her non-outdoorsy mother to sit in the hot summer sun while she plays soccer, softball and who knows what else – all on my dime.

Who has time to save for college when you are paying an arm and a leg right now? How do parents deal with all the expenses of money and time? I know I am not the first to experience this sticker shock, but geez, this has been quite an eye-opener!

Paula here -- I know a lot of you readers have experience with years of children's activities (and the related impact on the family bottom line); please share any comments/guidance you have!  And I will look forward to running into you next week!


Anonymous said...

My son played hockey for about ten years, from elementary school all through high school and travel teams for some of those years. It's a pay-to-play sport and he was a goalie. Leg pads for a goalie are about $1,500 and a good goalie helmet is about $300. Every time I thought of complaining, I remember what damage a frozen puck traveling at 90 mph can do to a child's head or knee. I gladly paid for well-made eqipment that kept him safe.

A typical season playing fees are about $1,000. This doesn't include all the gas money, hotels and camp fees. Some people might think we were crazy to encourage him to play hockey, but we have wonderful family memories of tournaments, heartbreaking games and heart-stopping season wins. My son learned how to handle criticism, rejection and good sportsmanship. It was well worth every penny.

凱許倫 said...

Knowledge is power................................................

Karen Thurston Chavez said...

I'm late to post a comment, but I'm going to anyway.

When we forked over almost $1,000 this past summer for our 15-year-old to play summer-league lacrosse, I coughed, choked, gagged ... and then remembered how much money my mother must have handed over for my horse, riding lessons, horse shows, boarding, vet and farrier bills, tack, show gear ...

Like you, Niki, the discipline, focus and responsibility I learned during my "horse years" are still with me. I'm so grateful I had that experience.

As long as my boys are actively engaged and enjoying whatever sport or activity they're interested in, we'll find a way to pay for it.

Thanks for sharing!