Last Christmas, instead of a bunch of new toys, we asked our families to consider gifting our kids with money so that we could afford to sign them up for a fun, extra-curricular activity. My daughter had dreams of learning ballet, and the boys had hopes of joining a soccer team. We had a pretty good response to this idea, and the three big kids got about $250 in Christmas money combined.
Now fast forward to the past few weeks.
I've been researching and crunching numbers. Even though I had a good idea of what it was all going to cost, seeing it all on paper has picked at the wound of our financial situation once again. Soccer, even at the YMCA, is $90 per kid after the registration fee (because we can't afford to be members) plus the cost of shoes and cleats. The ballet class we were hoping to attend is $45/month, plus a $25 registration fee, plus the cost of her outfit (uniform?) so they can all match at class.
After realizing just how expensive it was going to be for my daughter to step foot in her first month of classes, I got concerned. We really don't have the extra money to continue paying $45/month, and after we sign up all of the kids for each thing and get the required clothes for my daughter to take the class, their Christmas money will have run out.
It was a painful conversation to have, but I sat down and explained the problem to my daughter. I told her that it didn't seem like the smart thing to do, spending all of her share of the money so that she could attend 4 classes and then have to quit. I tried to convince her to look into another option, maybe find something that was a one time fee like soccer, and that way she'd at least get 8 fun classes out of it.
She didn't even try to hide it. She was heartbroken.
Since soccer registration was coming up this week, I decided to try one more option. A friend told me that we would probably qualify for financial assistance at the YMCA, and we could probably get a discounted membership. She told me the name of who I needed to contact, so I got online and sent an email explaining a little bit about our family and asking about any financial assistance that might be available.
Shortly after I sent the email, I received one back from someone different than the original person I wrote to, and this woman told me there was a homeschooling discount of 10% off of the monthly fee.
You want to know what the monthly fee is for our YMCA?
Anyone good at math?
Just in case you are as tired as I am right now, 10% of $79 is EIGHT BUCKS.
Not even $8.
Now, I'm not trying to sound ungrateful. It is nice that they offer a discount to homeschooling families. It really is. But my problem is, I reached out to them because we are struggling. I mentioned that we needed help. And it clearly states on their website that they are a nonprofit that offers help to families that would otherwise not be able to afford a membership.
Um, didn't I just tell them that we can't afford the membership rates? Maybe I wasn't clear enough.
After reading their response, I walked away from the computer feeling hopeless. I guess we have to go down there and beg for help--maybe even show them our bank statements and check stubs. Apparently sending an email requesting information isn't good enough. There must be many more hoops to jump through if you want to find out about the TOP SECRET INFORMATION regarding any type of assistance from the YMCA.
Anyone who has struggled financially knows that it is a constant lesson in humbling experiences. There is no room for pride when you are always needing help. Over and over again, you must relieve the numbers and quietly tell yourself that this help is only temporary; we will be out of this season soon.
I honestly do not know if we will even bother to make the trip down to the YMCA to ask anyone else about assistance. That was the second time I've requested information, and both times I was told the same number: 10%. I'm just not sure it's worth the heartache of having to spell out our finances to another stranger. Each of the boys have almost enough money to buy their cleats and sign up for one season, and I think they will enjoy what they get out of it. No use beating a dead horse.
Instead of continuing down that path, I've been searching for something for my daughter to try that would make more sense with what she has to spend. I even considered asking a seasoned ballerina in our homeschool group if she would consider teaching a more informal class to a few kids out of her home for a small fee, but I don't know if that would even work. I'm guessing they would still need the special room for dancing. (Obviously, I know very little about ballet!) I've been grasping at straws, trying to figure out a solution that would work with what we have and also make my girl happy.
And then tonight, after another long day of schooling and mothering and pouring over the numbers, I leaned over to hug and kiss my girl and tell her goodnight. I traced a cross on her forehead and whispered that I love her like I always do, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a tight hug like she always does. But tonight, as she released her arms from around my neck, she looked at me with these big, blue, disappointed eyes and said, "Mama, I know you said I only have enough money for 4 ballet classes, but I really want to spend my money on that. I want to take the 4 classes. I really want to do ballet."
My heart sank. I could barely get out the words, "We will talk about it more tomorrow."
I had to quickly escape her room. I hurried to the kitchen sink that was waiting for me with dirty dishes, and I stood there and sobbed.
I just don't know how people do it. I don't know how people can afford so many extra activities for their kids. I know lots of people these days stop after having one or two kids for this very reason, but even our Catholic friends with big families have their kids in lots of things. We just can't do it. Even with how hard Buddy works holding down two jobs, there's just not enough left in the budget.
Man, that's a hard pill to swallow.
I left the dishes and had a big, ugly cry on the sofa. If my only my tears could turn into money, we'd be rich by now.
After wiping my face, I immediately knew that I needed to write. I know that putting these words out there on my blog might seem crazy considering everything I just said about how humiliating it can be to relive our financial situation with other people, but for some reason, my blog is different. I guess it's mostly because I have so few people who actually read what I write, but it's also because sometimes I just need to get it out. I need to write it down in a place that I know I can come back to one day and remember our journey. I write in hopes that sometime in the future I will be able to look back and say to myself, "I remember the pain of that day. I remember that feeling of hopelessness. But look at us now. Look at how God provided."
I know that day will come. I've said those words already so many times. Even where we stand today, my face still sticky from tears, I can look back and say, "God has always provided," and I can say with confidence that He will continue to provide for our needs. We might not get everything we want, but I know He will give us what we need.
I trust that He knows each and every one of my days, and He will be with me through them all.
*I feel like I need to end this post with a note saying that I did not write this so that anyone would try and fix my problems. Writing is my therapy, and knowing that you care enough to read my words, possibly share a kind comment, and/or say a few prayers for us means the world to me!