Do you know what it takes to raise a child to adulthood, and then what it takes for them to make their strides from early adulthood to get to the point where they are mature decision makers in the world? Say, 30 years old? Here’s the punchline: it’s at least a million dollars, based on some back of the envelope calculations that can actually be justified.
The hard dollar costs of raising a person: In the United States, government data that says it costs parents on average $250K to raise a child from zero to 18. $350K if their parents made over $98K per year. If the parents don’t pay, the society picks up the slack.
The hard dollar costs of educating a person: It costs the society about $130K to provide public education for that child, which can go as high as $220K in certain districts, even if the child is healthy and mainstreamed. If the person goes to college, allow for another $160K, whether private or a public school financed with government subsidies. If they go to grad school or get an MBA, we can add another $100K onto the total.
The hard dollar costs of living as an adult: Once they are out on their own, living a moderate life, being housed, fed, clothed, and kept healthy requires a salary of $40K per year according to Kiplingers. So let’s give our 30 year old 8 years of basic living investment, or $320K.
Your average 30 year old has had over $1M invested in him or her, and that’s not counting the soft costs: The endless hours of labors of love, hours put into coaching, teaching, parenting, guiding, leading, way showing- all the love hours invested into that person by mom, dad, step parents, grandparents, godparents, aunties and uncles, mentors, teachers, coaches- all that can never be quantified.
As a parent, the investment in my children is my greatest life’s work, the thing that received more effort, attention and intention than anything else, and the strongest bonds are there. There is no way you could compensate me enough for that work!
When I start to see each person as a feat and a fortune, a walking 1 million treasure, my mind shifts completely. When I turn my gaze to myself with that lens, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, because I know these numbers and hours vastly underestimate what I was given, what they invested in me- my parents and grandparents. The travel, the classes, the lessons. The long walks learning plant names and constellations and cooking and poetry. What if I valued myself the way they did? I would never treat myself as less than a treasure.
Truly, to bring someone to a responsible, joyful, awake, aware adulthood is a feat and a a fortune. When we meet people with this lens- that they are walking treasures- we are called to value them and respect their humanity in an altogether new way.
Basically each person is a walking treasure, an immense investment by their families and the culture- and simply walking around with that realization has shifted the way I see each person.
Oh, and hey- don’t forget- you are a million dollar baby, too. Complete, unique and irreplaceable. Carry yourself as a treasure, too.