Owing Your Parents

When I was about 11 or so, I had a teacher ask the class a question.

“Who thinks they owe their parents a lot?”

He was one of those rare teachers who used to actually get us to think. Thanks again Mr. Fraser you were indeed an inspiration and I often wonder what you are doing now. Hopefully inspiring more kids to think for themselves. He often used to ask these kinds of questions and we all knew the drill – raise your hand for yes and do nothing for no. I was sitting at the front of the class and sat there without raising my hand.

I couldn’t see the rest of the class.

I turned around.

Every other person had their hand raised. Except me.

To my credit I didn’t raise my hand to go along with everyone else. He started asking people why they had their hand up. “They’ve given me everything I have, I owe them a lot” “They’ve fed me, clothed me, bought me things, I owe them a lot” “They buy me everything I want, I owe them a lot”.

Over and over in the same theme. “…I owe them a lot”. I was only 11, but I was really confused. “Owing someone something” implies a debt. It implies a debt that can be paid off. It implies that it is quantifiable and at some point said debt will be repaid and I imagine at that point you can sit back and say ‘Yep I sure paid back my parents for everything they did for me, I’m done here time to move onto Nanna and Pop”

I was thinking to myself I don’t OWE them. They’re my parents. It’s their job to feed me, clothe me, buy me stuff, love me, teach me, chastise me, show me. Only it’s not a job, THEY’RE MY PARENTS. You can’t repay that, it’s done. It’s kind of an unconditional thing. Just because I don’t feel a sense of debt, does that make me ungrateful? Or was every other kid in my class suffering from some sort of conditional love kind of deal?

I wasn’t aware of every other kid in the class and their particular relationship with their mum or dad. One girl – L – was arguing quite viciously that she owed her parents “a lot”. She seemed particularly passionate about it. I remember feeling perturbed that she felt so strongly that she owed her parents so much.

I’d spent a lot of time at her house and had seen her relationship with her mum and dad first hand. L always got a lot of Easter Eggs, went to the Royal Show every year and got every single show bag there was to get, Christmas was completely over the top. She always had the latest, and most fashionable of everything. We played in the same basketball team. My Dad was the coach. Every single training session, L got a lift with us. Every single game, L got a lift with us. Her mum would come and watch the finals, but regular games she got a ride with us.

But she owed her parents ‘a lot’.

The thing is, at that age, I thought her parents were shitty. L and her sister seemed to have to fend for themselves a lot. They were always getting fed at our house, they went home to an empty house after school and for the most part, her mum and dad were always out doing other things.

“Mum needs time to do things for herself”
“Don’t make too much noise, Dad’s trying to read his new books”

Fast forward 20 or so years and her mum that she owed so much to abandoned L and her sister to their own devices once L hit 19. By abandoned I mean, went to another country to be with her new boyfriend. L’s relationship with her Dad was completely destroyed by her Mum as her Dad was The Bad Guy in the divorce. Truth be told I thought during my late teens that L’s mum was going to turn out to be a lesbian she espoused that much hatred for men and bullshit feminist rhetoric. If a 16 year old can pick up that she was reading too much feminist rhetoric, that woman must have been one bitter twisted bitch.

“Mum’s going through a tough time right now”

So here L is in her mid 30’s. One fucked up relationship after another, desperate to find “the one”. Every guy she picked was unavailable, either emotionally or physically. A string of on again off again relationships.

“John would commit, but things are just stressful at work right now”

“He’s still living with his old girlfriend, but they’re not together anymore”

Yeah, right.

So I guess in a way she does owe her parents. Not sure how you repay that kind of thing though.

I’ll happily continue to not owe my parents anything. And they’ll happily continue to be there.

Thanks Mum, thanks Dad.

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One Response to “Owing Your Parents”

  1. Aspeth Says:

    Great post, Torcie. Have seen similar devloutions with my own friends over the years. Makes you realize just how far off ‘normal’ is for a lot of people.

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