Next summer, just after his GCSEs, my younger son is going on a rugby tour with school. The rugby tour will be a brilliant, life-changing experience. He will play rugby, of course, but will also experience different cultures. He will be staying in both hotels and with local families. He will get to do some charity work and see some incredible wildlife. It’s the kind of experience he will remember for the rest of his life.
It’s also a very expensive experience.
I’ll admit, when I heard the cost, I was shocked. Of course it’s reasonable value for what it actually is. But it’s still a lot of money. It’s not the sort of money ordinary families have to spare. But there aren’t that many ‘ordinary families’ at his school. I got the impression the whole rugby team would be going. I wasn’t going to let my son miss out on that. He has agreed to make a contribution to the cost and will go without birthday and Christmas presents next year.
But it turns out maybe there are more ‘ordinary families’ at his school than the school had realised. There are less people going on the rugby tour than usual, no doubt put off by the extortionate cost. My husband is questioning whether we’ve done the right thing by signing him up for it, but I still think we have. He will never get another chance like that again.
But the problem with chances like that is that my other kids haven’t had them. My eldest was never offered a trip like that at his old school. In the past, the 6th form of his current school had always had a trip to Washington. We’d told him he could go. But the trip didn’t run.
Over half term, my daughter kept talking about a school ski trip that some of her friends had gone on. The discussions ended with ‘I wish I’d gone on the ski trip’. But she’d never told us about it, expressed an interest in going or even brought a letter home.
Now a letter has come home for next year’s ski trip. In the light of the rugby tour, it’s only fair that she goes.
‘This can be your rugby tour.’
But of course we can’t afford a ski trip AND a rugby tour in the same year, so she will probably have to go the following year, when she is in year 10.
Then my eldest pipes up: ‘When’s my rugby tour?’.
This is a very good question. He is leaving school soon and has clearly missed out on his ‘rugby tour’.
When kids are little it is very easy to treat them fairly. If you buy one of them a bike for Christmas when they’re four, you can buy the other one a bike for Christmas when they’re four. If one of them has a magician for their birthday party when they’re six, the others can have a magician for their birthday party when their six.
But when they are teenagers, things change. They have different interests and different opportunities. There was no rugby tour for my eldest and, even if there was, he wouldn’t have gone. Because he didn’t play rugby for the school. There was no equivalent exciting trip available to him.
I’m aware that my eldest isn’t going to university and his siblings probably will. That’s another load of parental spending he’s going to miss out on.
His ‘rugby tour’ will remain at the back of my mind until the time is right. Maybe we will make a contribution to him going on holiday, maybe we will help him out with a deposit on a house or a car instead of paying for university.
We might not treat them all exactly the same because they are different people, but we can still treat them fairly.