Boomer reflects on poor but priceless childhood

Pettus Read

Pettus L. Read

I have recently been attending budget hearings in my county to learn more about where our tax dollars go. And after you come out of one of those meetings, you have to grab hold of something to stop your head from spinning around.

My county’s school system, for example, is the fifth largest in the state, and the numbers that churn out of those budget meetings are very head spinning.

Providing an education for our children is no longer hiring a teacher and getting some chalk, a few erasers, a blackboard and a paddle. Blackboards are now white or dry erase, the teachers cover subjects today that did not exist back in my day, and the paddle left school with me.

Budgets of today cover nurses, graduation counselors, lifesaving equipment, air conditioner units and other items that have become necessities. As I listened to the budget discussion, I thought back to when the classrooms were air conditioned by the windows being opened, and the nurse was the principal with a bottle of iodine.

It does cost more these days to raise a child. The U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture reports that a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years. Of course, that all depends if you have a kid who is low maintenance and is satisfied with just above average.

That is around a 2 percent increase from 2009. The greatest increases were in transportation, childcare, education and health care. This was based on a family income between $57,600 and $99,730. If you are making more than $99,730, you can expect to spend $377,040. If you make less than the $57,000 figure, your child is only going to cost you $163,440. I guess this proves that the more you have, the more you will spend.

Growing up on a Middle Tennessee farm, I don’t think I cost that much. As my preacher said one Sunday, “We were so poor that we ate cereal with a fork for breakfast and supper. The reason we used a fork was to save the milk.”

My early years were spent in an air-conditioned house. Whatever the condition of the air was outside, it was the same inside. However, the plumbing made up for that. You got plenty of exercise going to the well for water and going to the outhouse when needed. At an early age you developed bathroom discipline.

Cost: Priceless.

The good thing about my raising is that most of us boomers had about the same things and pretty much dressed alike. A couple of pairs of blue jeans, a pull-over shirt, white socks and a pair of penny loafers were all you needed. “Bored” was not a word you dared to use around parents for fear of finding yourself moving hay bales from one side of the barn loft to the other and then back again.

There is something to be said about us “antique kids.” We may have been cheap to create as kids, not costing a quarter of a million dollars to rear, but we are now costing a pretty penny to operate and keep running.

Written by Pettus L. Read for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. To contact Reed,send an email to