My daughter “Kim” is entering her junior year of college this fall. Last spring she told her mother and me she wants to spend the third semester of her junior year studying in Italy. Her mother and I are divorced but do our best to get along for the sake of our two kids.
Her mother is all for the idea and feels that I should pay all the associated extra costs, of which there are many. I am already struggling with the college costs on top of alimony and my ex has not contributed a dime to either of our kids ever, nor does she work.
I am worried that a study abroad program will stretch me financially to the breaking point so I’d like to say no. Kim’s mom strenuously disagrees and holds that studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity for our child. My daughter is begging me on a daily basis to make this happen.
Should I tell her no? Should I say yes and pay? Or should I say fine, if her mom pays? We generally try to stay on the same page for our kids but for this issue we can’t agree. Time is ticking here so your advice is highly anticipated!
Studying abroad in Italy is indeed a fantastic opportunity for any college child, unless that child happens to be Meredith Kercher.*
Thank you for giving me additional information about your family situation via text. Readers, here are some things you should know:
1. Kim gets good grades and is on track to graduate in 4 years, although she has yet to identify what she wants to be when she grows up. She majors in Political Science, meaning she is planning a career in waitressing or advice blogging.
2. Much like her mom, Kim has never held a job of any kind. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, maybe because it’s a lazy apple and falling far from the tree would require a little effort in the roll. During the summers she hangs out at home during the day and parties at night with her friends.
Dad still pays child support, also known as “Beer Money” and “Cash for Plan B.”
3. Brian works on commission in a field that is still recovering from one of the following (please select based upon your political persuasion and your limited understanding of how the economy works):
a) Fucking Clinton; OR
b) Fucking Bush; OR
c) Fucking Obama.
His income is 20% lower than it was at the time of the divorce but his alimony and child support remain the same, despite an effort to engage Baby Momma in talks to give him a break until he recovers. How would she pay for the French manicures, fancy clothes and vacations if she did that?
Brian is smart enough to know he will throw good money after bad seeking a reduction in a process that will last at least a year and get him no relief. He is smart that way because he reads my blog. Good man!
Brian, I really appreciate your letter today because it’s Monday, I golfed almost 50 holes in 24 hours this weekend and celebrated my wedding anniversary with Mr. Patience and Understanding. In other words: I’m tired and I needed a softball today.
I applaud your efforts to get along with your ex-wife and make decisions together that impact your children. Your concern about not being on the same page in this case is noted and hereby dismissed, because you ARE on the same page. Unfortunately, it is the wrong page. Please proceed to the following chapter:
Chapter 1: In which Kim grows up and throws away the tiara her mother is planning on handing down to her.
You have given your daughter an incredible gift: a college education unencumbered by the crushing student loans that so many young people struggle with today. You have done so in the face of economic adversity brought on by Clinton, Bush, Obama and your selfish and lazy ex-wife’s refusal to re-enter the workforce, despite the fact she was a very successful lawyer who “retired” from practicing at the age of 38.
Here is my advice to you:
Tell Kim that by all means, she should go to Italy and study. Sit down with your daughter and up all the extra costs associated with this program. Don’t forget to factor in some extra money that should go into an emergency account in case she winds up in some sort of trouble, because American kids ALWAYS end up in trouble abroad.
Help Kim find housing, and make sure she budgets enough for a decent neighborhood. You don’t want her living in a spaghetto, after all. Put every penny on a spreadsheet and then add at least 15% because of the fluctuating Euro.**
And next, you utter the following words:
“Voila, darling! Here is exactly what you will need to enroll in this program. I encourage you to get a job and earn the money to pay for it, because I cannot. Alternatively, you can ask your mother for the money, although I suspect her enthusiasm for your Italian adventure ends at the point where her Louis Vuitton wallet must open.
“It is high time for you to be an active participant in your own economic reality. I love you but I know you can do more to help our family and help yourself. My friend Robin worked 20+ hours a week in college and law school and she isn’t all that clever, so I know you too can get a job and continue your studies.
“I will support you emotionally in this endeavor but cannot contribute any money. Beyond the financial issue, there is a much more important one of teaching you the crucial lesson of how to work for what you want. Studying abroad is a luxury and not a right. I think in the end it will mean far more to you if you earn that luxury through hard work.”
That’s it, Brian! Stand firm, my man. Your daughter is surfing the precipice of a dangerous wave: on one side is maturation into a fully-realized and independent woman, and on the other is the solidification of an already healthy sense of entitlement and PMS (Princess Mentality Syndrome). Someday she will thank you for this, as will her future husband.
*For those of you sleeping under a rock for the past few years, blissfully unaware of the “Foxy Knoxy” trial, please click here: Murder of Meredith Kercher.
**I know nothing about the Euro but I thought this might make me sound financially knowledgeable.