Many of us, at one time or another in our lives, have had some debt we had to repay. Along the way, we (ideally) try to eliminate it as quickly as possible. Some of us even take the step of using a debt snowball. Whether it takes the form of student loans, car loans, or a mortgage – we independently make decisions to allow debt can into our lives at different stages of adulthood.
What about debt incurred during childhood?
At first glance, that sounds awful. But think about it: when you were born, you needed nourishment and shelter just like anybody else. Beyond that, you needed far more time and attention than even child just a bit older. You just weren’t able to take care of yourself and provide for your own needs. You needed help; without it, survival would be a moot point.
As an older kid, when you could function independently, you didn’t survive independently. Whether it was both of your parents, just one of your parents, or another guardian – someone was there to make sure that you had food to eat, and a roof over your head.
Even as a young adult, you still might be getting help from your parents. Maybe they let you move in with them at some point, or helped you with short term loan. Or, perhaps they helped defray some costs for your education or wedding. Maybe they just give you timely advice and nothing else at all. Either way, while you don’t need them the same way as you did when you were a kid, they might provide help to you in some way.
Hopefully, along each of these stages, there was a strong level of love and emotional support accompanying the caretaking.
Many people might say that these actions are the obligations of a parent. I would agree. Certainly, before the age of 18, they are unquestionably the obligations of parents. We all must take care of our kids and make sure they are provided for. Not excessively spoiled (as I witnessed recently), but taken care of. It’s a parent’s job. Hopefully it’s a parent’s pleasure as well.
Regardless of this parental duty, the reality is that for many of us, there was a ton of time, effort, and emotion in raising us. Probably at least some hard-earned money as well. A lot of sacrifices were made for our benefit.
The way I view it, if we receive such care, then we’re indebted to our parents.
What does this “debt” mean? Well, it could mean helping them as they get older. Perhaps ensuring that they can be driven to the doctor if need be. Or, maybe it’s physically caring for them if they need help. Maybe it’s allowing them to spend quality time spoiling their grandkids.
Or, perhaps, it’s a just matter of picking up the phone to talk. Tell them what’s going on in your life, and ask them about theirs.
Not everybody was fortunate enough to grow up with 2 parents, or even one parent, to help them. Even those with parents or a single parent might not have been given a loving childhood. For those folks, it’s hard for any of us to judge your thoughts about owing anybody anything at all. Lives can be complicated, and not everyone has had a good experience. Maybe you feel like you’re owed something and missed out.
That said, however, many of us have in fact been lucky. Parents who have invested so much of their heart and soul – not to mention time and money –into their kids deserve to be “paid” back in some way. It doesn’t have to be monetary, obviously, but they’re owed some time, attention, and support as they get older.
Now, to be sure, many parents don’t want to burden their kids, and don’t want kids to be obligated. That’s very honorable, of course.
But voluntarily repaying them through caring about them and appreciating all they did might make them feel good.
What do you think?