Gifts   Leave a comment

I spent my birthday noon hour with my parents yesterday.  They thoughtfully offered to take me out to lunch at a local Ethiopian restaurant they hadn’t visited yet, so I met them there.

They were somewhat delayed due to a combination of vision difficulties and the ludicrously lacking street signage in downtown Louisville, so I had time to get comfortable at my table, order my birthday Coke (there isn’t any in the house due to my youngest having a minor addiction to it.  If I buy it, he finds it, and I’m not OK with that) and check out the buffet.

I also had time to reflect on the oddity of being another year older and creeping toward fifty.

But the main thought in my mind was the lovely courtesy of my father, whose idea the lunch date was.

My folks have a variety of volunteer work, hobbies, church events, friends, and appointments that keep them busy, but they still thought it would be fun to take time out of a day that already had a schedule to have lunch with me.  And, they wanted to pay for it!

Birthdays are traditionally a day to celebrate the person whose birthday it is, and that’s certainly a tradition I’m very fond of.  But if there is anyone, other than the Giver of life, who ought to be celebrated on a birthday, it should be the parents.  Without them, you wouldn’t be having a birthday in the first place.

So at one level, it would really make more sense for me to take my parents out to lunch on my birthday, as a way to thank them for the wonderful life they gave me.

But that’s the funny thing about parents.  They really enjoy giving you presents, doing nice things for you, surprising you, helping you.  It’s (usually) not an obligation, but a pleasure to do something lovely with or for your child.

I know that, because I also am a parent.  It has obviously given me a whole new perspective on how my parents raised me.

As I thought about how I really should be paying for my parents’ lunches, because I owe them so much, I realized that is the funny thing about the parent-child relationship.

A child owes her parents everything.

But at the same time, she doesn’t owe them anything.

It’s a paradox.  You have an obligation because of bringing another person into the world; but the obligation is yours, not your child’s.  You love that child with all your heart, teach the child what life is about, and then accept that the child is his own person.  He will make his own choices and do what he thinks is best.

You gave him the gift of being alive.

But by definition, it’s a gift.


Posted July 16, 2014 by swanatbagend in parenting

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