Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Price Of Parenthood

I has a KFC last night.

So what you might be thinking but for me it's almost unheard of.  Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of fried chicken every now and then but it must be about 18 months since I last had any kind of takeaway (fish and chips at the beach don't count).

Incidentally, can you believe SD has NEVER had either a KFC or a McD's??  A weird but true fact.

Anyway, last night it was just Miss Mac and myself and I decided to treat her, we also shared a bottle of coke, something else that rarely makes its way into my house.

It was bloody lovely although I feel like crap today.  I'm not the food police and, as you know, I'm partial to a bit of cake and a firm believer that people can eat what the hell they like.  Most of us are fully informed of the healthy options but life is all about stepping outside of that box from time to time as far as I'm concerned.

A KFC isn't going to instantly clog up my arteries or break the bank when we do it so rarely but I've got to admit, despite the huge amount of pleasure I got from eating it, I'm a little shocked by how bloated and sluggish I feel today so I don't see it becoming a regular thing.

The reason for the KFC was, in part, because SD wasn't around, he can be a little preachy regarding health because, as he says, he'd like to he around for a very long time and he'd like me to be there with him.

Fair point SD ...

The other reason for grabbing a takeaway was that Miss Mac and I had spent a couple of hours at the school, it was after 7.30 and we were hungry.

Last week Miss Mac came home with a letter about a school trip, I've talked about the inclusiveness of school trips in the past and the simple reality that many if them are, for me as a single parent, beyond my grasp.  I couldnt justify or afford for Miss Mac to go on the three day trip to Paris (two days of which were partly spent travelling) at a cost of over £300 before including spending money just before the summer break and, to be fair to her, she was disappointed but took it on the chin.

This trip is in a different league.

This trip is four weeks in Kenya!

This trip is to the Tsavo national park, it includes safaris, scuba diving, working on conservation projects etc ...

This trip is AMAZING.

Miss Mac has from a very early age wanted to be a vet.  She works extremely hard at school.  At the end of last year she gained a certificate of excellence in humanities and wears the bar badge she was given in recognition with pride.  She was accepted on the triple science GCSE course which limits its places to top students who have the ability and determination to complete the extra study and take the extra exams this entails.  She had been nominated for another award of excellence in another subject, as yet she doesn't know which as it will be announced in an assembly at some point but she has had her photo taken which will be displayed on the wall of excellence in the schools main foyer.

I'm so incredibly proud of her.  She's bright and beautiful, clever and hard working.  She's funny yet focused, generally easy going and without the secretive, stroppyness that so often accompanies adolescents.

She's not perfect of course, but who wants perfection?  She's incredibly untidy, prone to laziness with regard to most things other than school work, has the odd burst of temper and constantly photo bombs my phone!

She wants to go on this trip SO badly and I can see why.

Miss Mac used to be addicted to a TV show called Wild At Heart set on a South African wildlife reserve it centred around the vets who ran the reserve.  It was really too late for her to watch on a Sunday night with school the next day but I used to allow her it as a special treat.

In the years since her resolve to work with animals in some form has never faltered.  She wants to be a vet or a zoologist and she wants the opportunity to work with animals on a game reserve.

I admire her resolve.  I admire her determination and I admire her hard work.

I would LOVE to give her this opportunity because I think its truly wonderful.

The trip comes in at a little under four thousand pounds ...

The things that are not included in that cost are, passports and visas, vaccinations, travel insurance excess, travel to and from UK airports, spending money and tips, equipment and an (optional) CoPE level 3 qualification.

I'm ok with most of that although I was surprised that it didn't include the cost of travel to UK airports.  I was also unhappy that an equipment list wasn't available at the meeting and have to question why, when this company have been running these trips for 11 years they don't provide this information from the start.

Is is, as I suspect, that they feel the additional expense would be a sticking point for many and therefore its brushed aside until you've signed up and are committed?

Maybe ...

You see, THIS is my main concern.  This trip isn't organised in house by the school.  This trip is organised by an outside organisation.  A BUSINESS - for profit ...  And so I wonder how much I can take at face value, how much of a positive spin are they prepared to put on this in order to fill places?

Don't misunderstand me, I can see that they do valuable conservation work, I can see that they are working closely with communities to build schools, give them clean, running water, grow sustainable crops etc and I applaude them for that but, ultimately they are not a charity and they (good intentions aside) are looking to make money.

Clearly the fact that they are in their 11th year and have won many awards indicates that they do what they do very successfully.

But I'm concerned.

Last night's presentation was full of success stories.  Children who had, through fund raising raised the whole cost of the trip individually and by group efforts.  Many of them appeared (from their manner, clothing etc) to have come from rather more affluent backgrounds than most of the children at Miss Macs school.  Perhaps they had a safety net in the form of family who were able to make up any shortfall should they not be able to fundraise the full amount themselves.  I really don't know, I can only surmise.

I do know we don't have that luxury.  I do know that, although this trip doesn't take place until 2015 giving us a little under 2 years to raise the money that this (once the deposit has been paid) requires each child to raise approximately £160 per month each.  I do know that should Miss Mac find herself unable to do this that I would find it impossible to make up the difference and I know there is no-one I can call upon for help with such a huge sum.

I do know that my main concern that this trip is not organised by the school is one the one that I'm having the most difficulty with.

I wonder if my mistake was not giving my daughter an outright no when she brought the form home?  Was my determination to remain open-minded misguided or even cruel?  I've given her hope in attending the meeting.  I've let her be seduced by the presentation where I was very aware of the use of positive projection - 'you WILL be doing this - you WILL be staying here -.you WILL be meeting these people and you WILL be making a difference.

Every single one of those children left the lecture theatre confident that they WILL be going on the trip.

Miss Mac started a list of fundraising activities and companies to contact for sponsorship as soon as she got home and this IS something I have some experience in.  I've spent years on PTA's, I've been on the committee of our local park for the past 4 years, I KNOW its not as easy as they made it appear.  I know the recession has hit hard, that many large businesses make direct donations to chosen charities and won't consider other requests for help.  I know that small local businesses are endlessly generous but not necessarily in a position to help and I KNOW that friends and family are also stretched and endless requests for sponsership place an unfair burden on them.

I would still love to be able to say yes ...

Like every parent I'm familiar with having to refuse my children the things that they want.  Like most parents, I don't enjoy doing this.

Miss Mac isn't hard done by.  She's had a great summer in many ways.  We've been out and about, it may not have been everyone's idea of luxury but its never been boring.

She has a happy home where she is safe.

She has a mother who loves her fiercely and, in SD, a male figure who has standards and morals and who will always do his best for her.

She doesn't have many of the material possessions that some of her peers have, no iPod, no iPhone, no iPad - but, what she lacks in 'I's' she more than makes up for in 'us's' - ok, that's just a little bit flowery for me ...  ;-)

The point is, she has the important stuff and she's ok with that.  She wants stuff and I get that but she's ok with not having it most of the time.

So I'm kind of stuck.  Do I try to make this happen despite my reservations?  Do I push the school to make some kind of firm commitment to the students do I look for assurances that they will support and be actively involved in the fundraising? The company running the trip provided ideas, packs and support but they do not have a personal interest in the individual child.

One of my concerns is the timing.  Miss Mac will be taking this on in the run up to and including the year that she takes her GCSE's.  One of the questions I wanted to ask the school was, what impact has this had on students studying and results in previous years but I discovered last night that this is the first year they have undertaken this type of trip.

Ultimately I need to look at the long term benefits alongside the short time gains but I don't know the answers and no one can give them to me.

I know I've waffled on a lot.  I'm trying to organise my thoughts.

I don't think I can sign up to this and I hate the fact that it all boils down to money.


K Ville said...

A month out in run up to GCSEs with a massive commitment to fund raising? Not on your Nellie.

An opportunity of a life time that could influence her whole life. How could you say no?

Fund raising is possible, you know that, but it's hard work and needs the school to commit to supporting them too.

joeh said...

Tough one...maybe requires some outside research. Contact others who were in the program?

Tough one indeed.

KFC is required at least once a year!!

Sarah said...

It is possible K but I wonder if its advisable. the actual trip is after the exams finish but the fundraising will encompass the whole of the time running up to it. I'm going to try and get some answers from the school regarding their perception of what their involvement should be. Five teachers attended last night's presentation but I'm not sure if that was just out of curiosity. it is such a fantastic opportunity ...

Sarah said...

Totally agree re the KFC Joe, it was worth every moment of feeling crap today! I'm going to talk to a few other parents and get their views. one of the problems is that the children are expected to sign up and pay a deposit next Thursday so I have to get a move on. tough one indeed!