You OWE me, man!

There was brief period of time in my adolescence when my mother would rattle off how much I owed her for giving birth to me, breast feeding, changing my diapers, etc. I eventually came up with the perfect response: “Look, I didn’t ask to be born.” Most of the time this brought on silence. If it did not, I had the follow up comment at the ready. “I did not ask to be born. You did that to me and as such you have a social responsibility to provide lodging, clothing, and sustenance, and to provide for my education until such a time as I come of age.”

Of course she was quick to point out that my clothing could very well come from the thrift store (most of them did, anyway) and the food…well those culinary horrors inflicted on me as a child will be saved for another post.

In fact, once I understood how sex worked and how pregnancy and childbirth went, I could not understand for many, many years why someone would choose to do this. Willingly.

And then it happened to me. Twice. Still don’t understand…

Shortly after my second baby, an adolescent patient was bemoaning the fact, in front of his mom, that he was a few inches too short for his taste. I imagined my own kids says something similar in the future and it made me sad. I did not make you good enough? It struck me then that he was a physical reflection of his parent’s love and what a beautiful thing that was no matter what form he came in, and how even if his parents were no longer together, there had been something there once and he was the monument to that. Not sure he got the point then but I bet he will remember that conversation when he is looking into his own son’s eyes someday.

I have thought about this in my own kids, how even their genetic imperfections are beautiful reflections of me and their father when I look at them. I am hardly objective.

But there is a dark side of this gene thing. Inherited diseases. What about those getting passed on unwittingly? Or worse, what if you knew you had a 75% chance of passing on some horrible autosomal dominant disease and you chose to have children anyway? People do.

What about things that seem a bit more innocuous? I struggled with passing on some of my own things… like my huge butt that will just not go away no matter how small the rest of me is. Knowing how painful that issue was and is for me do I have any right to inflict that on my daughter? I keep a running list of all of the unpleasant things I have inherited from each of my parents…godawful bunions, a pilonidal cyst, the aforementioned huge butt, and the list goes on. I joke, sort of, that this means I should get a bigger and better birthday present than my brothers every year. Not that it helps, mind you. I only get a card. A regular sized card. Phooey!

Do we owe our parents? Do they owe us? If there is a debt, when is it paid? (Thanks John Callaghan of Get Off My Lawn for your thought provoking comment yesterday!)

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12 thoughts on “You OWE me, man!

    • Yes, it is a circle. You are so right that is how it should be. But I have seen many kids who do not care for their parents and many parents who do not care for their kids. Does that absolve the other party from participating in the circle? Certainly I think we are honor bound as humans to care for each other even beyond filial responsibility, so there is that. I just think it is interesting to thing about, you know?

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      • It’s an incredibly interesting thing to think about. I always wonder about the parents who don’t take care of their kids. I feel like a lot of what I do for my son is so, biologically driven. It’s taken me four years to kinda cut the “umbilical cord” and go do my own thing while my son stays home with Dad. I can’t help but run to him when he cries. Even when I know I shouldn’t. And kids who don’t take care of their parents… well, I’m the youngest of five and I know I’m going be doing most of the heavy lifting later. Mostly personality conflicts with the other kids and our parents. Does feeling neglected and unloved absolve you from your “duty” later one? That is an interesting question…..

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  1. I’ll admit, most of the points you raised here had never even crossed my mind! I know that sounds silly but it’s the truth. Somehow I don’t think my brain will turn off for a while now…ummm, thank you? ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Great post. Again. For myself, being told from the time I was very young that one of the reasons for my being born was to look after my parents. This certainly took away most, if not all of my enthusiam.Where did such an idea come from? My life could never be my own if it were spent providing care for people who, due to alcoholism, drug addiction, and religious nuttery, had become strangers to me. And what of our ever lengthening life span? Children caring for parents might have been a simpler task when the everage lifespan was 40 or so. But tack on another 40 or 50 years and then you’re talking about two lifetimes of obligation. And I do know people in this world who deserve all of that and more but they are, or were not, my parents. But these bonds are so entwined in our culture, infused into so much, it feels tratorous just to question the family dynamic and imagine other possibilities of being.

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  3. Your question as to whether it is ethical to bring a child into the world with a severe genetic disease or to have children with the strong possibility that this will be the case, is a moral minefield.
    I was born fully sighted and lost the majority of my vision at about 18-months-old due to a blood clot on the brain. Obviously my blindness is not genetic, however due to my disability the issue of terminating (or deliberately determining not to have children) with genetic abnormalities is one which exercises me from time to time.
    I believe that such choices should never be made by the state. When decisions of this nature become delegated to state beurocrats one can very easily end up with the horrors of Nazi Germany where disabled people where forceably sterilised or killed under the Action T-4 Programme. Other countries, including the United States operated Eugenics programmes albeit at a more humane level than the Nazis in that they did not entail the killing of disabled people but did, frequently involve the compulsory sterilisation of individuals with certain disabilities.
    Sadly many medical professionals supported such programmes (in Germany hardly a single doctor is on record as having raised objections).
    Of course today you and most other doctors (along with most members of the general public) are rightly horrified at the eugenic practices of the past. There are, however still advocates of eugenics and we need to be careful that in the desire to avoid suffering we donโ€™t embrace policies which impinge on the liberty of the individual.
    Having said all that I would think very carefully before bringing a child into the world knowing that it had a high possibility of suffering from a very painful condition. Such a decision is, however one which should be left in the hands of parents.

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  4. Even before the past couple of years, many, many men, of all ethnicities, were attracted to women who did not need cushions when seated on webbed lawn chairs. I don’t think you owe your daughter any apology.

    Be happy and proud and rejoice in it. I am a skinny(-ish) woman with a big fat #ss. Them’s the breaks.

    ‘Course, as I age, it will become a big, fat, flat #ss.
    ๐Ÿ˜€

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