Friday, 19 February 2010

What You REALLY Owe Your Parents

We all owe something to our parents, some a lot, some not that much, really. But I am not concerned about how much here. I want to take a look at what, not how much, do we really owe to our parents. What are the things they've done that deserve praise, gratefulness, and, why not, payback?

Let me start at the beginning: the birth. Is that something to be grateful for? After all, if you (and I) weren't born we'd not be having this discussion, right? Well, yes, but I still don't think conceiving and birthing you is something that necessarily demands gratitude. See, even if they planned for it, and especially if they didn't, your parents almost certainly did not have you, as you are now or at any point of your life, in mind. Yes, the wanted a baby. Yes, they may even had ambitions for it, maybe a set of features they wanted you to have which they thought they could influence. But equally certainly you turned out to be something (someone?) quite different. A lot of that is to your parents credit, but since it didn't quite turn out to plan, we'll discuss the details a bit later. Here I just wanted to demonstrate how the mere fact you were conceived and born does not necessarily attract kudos to parents. Not to mention that there might be some among you who'd rather they weren't born in the first place, or would have referred a different set of parents. But that's a topic for a different post. lets' go further with this one now.

The next major contribution parents have (had?) in your life is the basic support in terms of food, shelter, and so on. This is a little more difficult to call, but I think overall, this does not deserve as much gratitude as people tend to feel it should. Pared to the basics, this is something that every parent should be doing anyway if they're in any way "normal". Unless you're a true monster you're going to feed your baby, and makes sure it is dry, warm, and generally healthy. Even if you'd rather not, modern societies tend to make it a criminal offence not to, so most people do, if not because they're good, then because they'd rather live without legal hassle. And dealing with social services is a hassle, even if you're happy with the end game which is your baby being taken from you. Of course, most parents will go above and beyond this particular call of duty, and some of them will even deserve gratitude for it. But that still does not make this reason universally qualifying for the best parent in the world award. So, let's press on...

I will totally ignore the fact your parents have not abused you physically or sexually. This does not deserve comment, really. I mention it for completeness, and for the few who may have thought of it. You know who you are, and you are wrong!

Finally, the last step before a child (hopefully) becomes independent: schooling. Again, this is something that is legally required in most modern societies, at least to a certain degree. Therefore, no gratitude is required for any schooling that the state mandates for all children. For any education that goes above and beyond this level, at least some parents deserve (a lot) of gratitude, so yes, we got to an almost undeniable area at last. Yet, it is still not really a universal thing parents can do and automatically deserve your eternal gratitude. Read on now, as below I will tell you what is the one thing parents can do which will earn them undisputed gratitude, and kudos beyond measure.

So yes, my friends (and enemies), there is one thing you can do to assure stardom through your parentdom. And that is... Wait for it... Oh, shoot! It can't be summarised in a short sentence. I'll try to make it a not so long paragraph then.

One thing that parents can, should, must! do is nurture you, your needs, and your interests as they really are, and not as they think they are, or worse, as they think they should be. This requires utmost care and careful and watchful eye as well as a lot of effort to offer, but never push, as much of the diverse things world can offer as possible. If you want a down to earth, and dirty, metaphor take "throwing mud against a wall, and seeing what sticks". Only here this means showering your child with opportunities and information without prejudice, and then helping to take up and progress anything that has been seen as something that provoked keen and genuine interest. Yes, there will be misses, and blind alleys, but those should be taken in your stride, as datums telling you where to try to turn next. And the real skill here is being able to feed and nurture an interest of which you, yourself, have very low opinion. Because, who are you to judge another persons talents and interests - you are barely able to judge yours! And this applies not only to education and prospective profession of your child. Exactly the same attitude should be shown towards any other interests: in politics, in fashion, in sexual preference. Judging by the current climate even in civilised world, this last one probably asks much more of a parent than anything else. But that's by the by. It is the general attitude that counts.

Oh dear. What should have been a short paragraph grew into a monster! I apologise. In the next sentence or two I will try to sum it up for you.

If you want your kids to be eternally grateful to you make sure that you do all you can, and more, to see what their true interests and potentials (but firstly interests!) are and then to feed them as best you can, even if you disagree, even if you dislike them. Because surely it is a happy and accomplished (but firstly happy!) person that you want to raise, and not someone who finds themself trapped in somebody else's dream (nightmare?) for the rest of their life.

Be warned. The responsibility is (almost) entirely yours!

PS
I know some of you will be asking yourselves (hi mom!) howmy parents fare in these terms. I am happy to tell you, and they'll hopefully be happy to hear (hi again mom!) that they indeed score very, very high.

Why not highest, you may (will?) ask (I'm looking at you mom!). Because I'm an incurable tease, that's why! In all honesty I did try to find a fault, and couldn't. I think they were supportive to a fault.

Thank you mom and dad!

PPS
Yes, that's me in the photo, when I was still black and white!