The Game of Grappling for Grandkids

Physician's Money Digest, June 2007, Volume 14, Issue 6

"The game is afoot,"declaredSherlock Holmes(immortal detective ofArthur Conan Doyle?aphysician with a real appreciationof the pleasures of solving aproblem, be it a murder mystery or anunusual diagnosis). Today, we analyzea real "game" played by a real-life doctorand his wife.

The game's challenge: The doctorand his wife (two parties of thefirst part) don't get to see their grandchildren(two parties of the secondpart) often enough because the parents(four parties of the third part) havejobs and lives and find it hard to committo getting together.

The proposed solution: A wonderfulfamily vacation.

The prize: Grandparents offer to payfor a 1-week vacation for all parties.

The catch: The parents might suspectthat the real reason for the vacationis so the grandparents can get theirhands on the grandchildren. The parentsare merely ancillary characters inthis game. This needs to be kept secret.

The rules: Disguise the whole thingas a Christmas present. Instead of givingboxes of electronic equipment, toys,books, and clothes, the parents get abox containing an all-expenses-paidgift certificate for a 1-week vacation toOrlando, Florida. Notice, there is noinitial mention of the grandchildren.

"Oh! Will they be coming as well?"the parents inquire.

In fact, the parents receive separatecertificates entitling each to plan onecomplete day of activities. They get tochoose exactly what they want to do.

"Oh, could we watch the grandkidswhile you go on that roller coaster?"the grandparents offer.

Notice how the incentives arealigned. To get their Christmas present,the parents must agree to the trip. Forthat, they get a day focused on themselves,so they are happy to go alongon the days when the others get whatthey want. Fair is fair. They've knownthat since they were kids.

The costs:

Airline fares(six adults, two toddlers): $2900

Condo rental(4 bedrooms/3 baths/kitchen): $3000

Entertainment (park admission,shows, museum): $2800

Car rental (2 vehicles): $1000

Restaurants and food: $2100

Miscellaneous expenses: $500

Travel planner/grandmother(150 hours x $0/hour): $0

Total: $12,300

The cost-benefit analysis:

Total time grandchildrenspent with grandparents: 84 hours

Cost per hour ofgrandchildren time: $12,300/84 hours= $146/hour

Cost per hourper grandchild: $146/2 = $73/hour

The "winners": Everyone.

The true winners: In this case, it'sobviously the doctor and his wife.They won quality time with theirgrandchildren while simultaneouslysatisfying the parents' needs for somefun. And they did it for a measly $73per hour per grandchild. Not a badsum—less than the doctor gets for hisprofessional activities! Yet, it's animpressive sum worthy of impressivegrandchildren.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physicianin Saginaw, Michigan, is the editor of theSaginaw County Medical Society Bulletinand Michigan Family Practice. He welcomesquestions or comments at 3350 ShattuckRoad, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or louisconstan@hotmail.com.