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!)