I’m just going to put it out there, despite the harsh judgment that might get dished my way since our daughter participates in a “rich kid sport.” It’ll be worth it since this story is so stocked with teaching moments and life lessons for our ever-so-precious teenagers, who often think the world revolves around them. Can I get an Amen!

Let me set the scene…My daughter is a ski jumper. A women’s ski jumper! This is a big deal in our house since it was only in 2014 that ski jumping became an Olympic sport for women. (This blog is about finances, not politics, so I’ll hold my tongue). My daughter is a real daredevil and her ultimate goal is to be an Olympian someday – A feasible reality since she started skiing before she could walk and we live in Park City, Utah, the headquarters for the United States Ski & Snowboard Association. She recently reached the level of trying to qualify for a spot on the Junior National Team, which means lots of travel and forking over big bucks (since she’s not quite there in regards to sponsors). Hence the importance of Mom & Dad…

Women’s ski jumper
Look at my girl fly!

When she travels with her team, her coach coordinates the logistics and makes all the travel arrangements. He’s a great guy, but a Millennial bachelor nonetheless and hasn’t exactly mastered how to coordinate family travel on the cheap! It kills me just a little (OK, a lot) that I can’t use my miles and points to swindle a sweet deal. I’m resigned to biting my tongue and paying her travel expenses as organized by her coach. As my own father loves to say, “You might pay less, but you’ll never pay more.” This past month she and a few teammates flew to Lake Placid, New York, home of the annual U.S. Nationals Ski Jumping Tournament, Flaming Leaves. This is a huge accomplishment and childhood dream of hers and it’s finally a reality! However, as I like to say, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…

The night before she was to leave she was frantically emailing her teachers about assignments she’ll miss, digging through the heap of clothes at the bottom of her closet and making all kinds of requests (Threats really, who are we kidding?) of her siblings. (She was convinced her younger sister had stolen her socks.) She worked herself into a complete tizzy about fitting everything into her carry-on suitcase. (In an effort to be completely transparent, she does have to pack her jump suit, helmet, boots, and other uniform paraphernalia amongst her usual clothing and toiletries…but this has been done countless times before). I’m trying to do my part to help, yet keep the balance in our little universe, when she marches out of her room all flustered and demands she be allowed to check-in a suitcase. I quickly and without hesitation told her it wasn’t an option because the trip is already costing a fortune, so she’d just need to make it work with her carry-on bag.

Oh, how her world came crashing down! There were tears and pleading, “But the other girls get to check-in bags.” To which I not-so-calmly replied that her teammates’ parents clearly must love their daughters more than I love her (and have a bigger travel budget) since they’re willing to pay the check-in baggage fee and I am not. It wasn’t my finest parenting moment, but I was tired from a long day at work, out of patience and stressed about finances. I told her she had two options if she couldn’t make the carry-on suitcase work – either layer the clothes that wouldn’t fit in her suitcase on herself and wear them on the plane, or use her own hard-earned money from her summer job and pay the check-in baggage fee herself. My ultimatum resulted in more tears, an animated parental lecture on privilege, opportunities and gratitude and a few slammed doors.

About ten minutes later she came back out of her room in tears and apologized, and I did too. We had a much calmer conversation and I tried to slip in a few pearls of wisdom about how there will never be enough money in life for everything and we all have to learn how to be smart with the money we have, which requires us to sacrifice one thing for another because there are always trade-offs. I pointed out that while she might not get to check-in luggage, another teammate likely has older skis than her, works a part-time job year-round, or has a jump suit with a few more patches. (Because who are we kidding, Olympic hopefuls are pretty much always broke!). Every family has to make trade-offs, like new braces for Junior instead of that romantic beach getaway with your spouse, or using the money you socked away for a new TV to fix your fridge’s busted compressor. That’s some serious “adulting”, but it’s also reality, and the sooner our kids develop these skills (through our inspired life lessons, of course) the more content they’ll be.

The next day my daughter hoped on a plane, sans check-in luggage, in hopes of carving out a spot for herself on the US Women’s Junior National Team!