That line, the one I used for the headline . . . that’s something I heard a lot this weekend.
My oldest daughter had a visit from her college roommate and they spent the weekend doing what college kids do, spending time away from the house.
But still, when they got there I did a number of things that led to the line “you didn’t have to do that!” I think at a certain point my daughter just wanted time alone with her friends and that was easily handled. I worked an early shift on Friday so it freed her up to pick up her roommate and spend the day. I took the kids to see their aunt and have lunch. My oldest went to the movies and had dinner elsewhere.
But as the weekend started I made breakfast. I gave her money – what little I had, anyway – to go shopping in San Francisco for the day. I gave them my car to use because it’s an SUV and I feel safer with her having some metal between her and the road. I checked on them once in awhile.
“You didn’t have to do that,” was what I heard.
It’s true, I suppose, I didn’t. But there’s a difference between how pleasant surprise and expectation.
When I would visit my future in-laws and eventually my in-laws I would constantly thank them and help clean up dishes and do whatever I could to show my appreciation for the mere fact that I was allowed to stay in their home. I’m not saying my wife didn’t do that, but there was a certain amount of expectation that she’d be waited on whenever she wanted it. It’s not my late-wife’s fault, the waiting and pandering and catering were done all her life, so when we moved to California and she realized that, even though she wasn’t a kid any more, her mother was not going to wait on her it depressed her. I say this with insane affection because as much as my wife and her parents argued there was deep and abiding affection. Where she was catered she wanted to help and care for her own children, the children we had together. It was a good pairing as where I would be the disciplinarian she would explain what needed to be done to keep things in balance. There was no whip or belt or massive spankings. There was just normal household stuff.
I don’t know if it was because I had chores and did the dishes and painted the out-buildings or what have you, but there was never a thought that you should have expectations in my household. We had a roof and we were given a lot. Expecting anything else seemed . . . selfish, I suppose.
But this weekend, with a guest in the home and my daughter home from college I did what was normal: I cooked, cleaned, all the normal things. But I made chocolate waffles and special chili and all kinds of things for when the girls were in the house.
“You didn’t have to do that,” my daughter and her roommate told me.
“Of course I did,” I told them. I mean that, too. My parents always did that when people visited. When my girlfriend came to meet them we had great dinners and fun nights. I never expected it, but they expected they’d do it. Now being a parent myself I realize the reality: you do things for your kids. You do them because you want to, not because you have to or feel there’s a necessity. Still, I do it because I want to do it.
There’s a reality where my kids know I have another life, my life, that’s not just as their Dad. I have to in order to survive, but fiscally and emotionally. But still . . .
I do have to do those things. For the very same reasons.