Municipalities in this country, or at least in the province of Ontario (I am ignorant of the particulars for cities outside these borders), are like adolescents caught in the middle of an unhealthy parental relationship. Mom and dad – their union began that far back – are essentially separated, and have been for some time now. Things would get just too messy for an outright divorce. Instead, they go along to get along as best they can, sometimes fractious, sometimes amicable-ish, situation dependent, co-dependent, it can feel like.
One of the parents, because it is such a traditional set-up, dad, let’s say, is pretty distant. Not around that much, off with bigger fish to fry, dealing with weighty, existential matters, he says. He does pop by for special events from time to time, grand announcements and openings. He makes a big deal of it too, flashing a cheque every now and then, wanting everyone to know where the money’s coming from. It always feels like he’s working some sort of angle, though, looking for something in return, a little quid pro quo, his generosity tends to come with strings attached.
You know the type.
Pretty much from day one, he’s handed off the main parental responsibilities over to mom. Co-parenting not really being his thing. Hey! My hands are tied, kid! It’s all laid out in the prenup. (Think it was called something else back in the day). I didn’t even know that a kid existed at first! dad claims, wiping his hands as clean as he can. You just kind of appeared out of nowhere. Not even sure you’re mine, he’ll whisper when mom’s not around.
Mom, in turn, is exacting. Sometimes it feels like she’s on the kid’s side. Other times, she’s completely unreasonable, getting all up in the business, demanding this, demanding that. She wants the kid to stand on his own two feet while also treating him like an infant. I can’t do everything for you! she tells the kid. There are other mouths at the table to feed. She’s not wrong. The kid’s siblings are big and at times unwieldy, with ravenous appetites, as all growing children have, and there never seems to be enough money in the kitty. Your father can be a bit of a tightwad, she’ll whisper when he’s not around.
The kid does get an allowance from mom for doing the chores around the house, less than she used to give, but those were different times. Mom seemed like a different person then. It’s barely adequate, the allowance, covers some of the basics but nowhere near all of them. This doesn’t even keep up with inflation, the kid points out to mom. Well, if the kid wants more, he just has to go out and get a job, not full time, mister, nothing that interferes with schoolwork.
Mom likes to also point out that the kid has his own source of income from a trust established exclusively for him, not his other siblings, by an old relative, long since dead, who’d had the foresight to realize that the parents weren’t always reliable sources of well-being. Access to this money was limited. The kid learned to be judicious, always aware that making a big show of using the funds sparked anger in a lot of his relatives.
So the kid gets a part time job, one that has to be absolutely approved of by mom, makes pretty good money, generates some revenue, enough that it catches his parents’ attention. Both of them begin to demand a certain percentage from him. Even dad who, well remember he pretty much disowned the kid, not his responsibility and all that? What gives?
For services rendered is all his parents say.
Mom also decides the kid needs to do more chores, while keeping his job and maintaining good grades. The allowance stays the same but then mom says the kid has to start contributing to the upkeep of the house and the welfare of his other siblings! He’s old enough now. He should be paying room and board. The roof doesn’t just fix itself, mom says to him, hand out. I never really lived in the place, dad disavows when the kid asks for some help from him, hand out.
So, what’s a kid to do? The petulant adolescent he is, he dials back on the work, reins in the revenue stream, blames it on a downturn in the economy, the hangover from the pandemic and such, keeps the trust funds to the barest of minimums. I’m just a kid, he tells his mom (and his dad who, of course, has stopped listening). You give me all this responsibility and zero amount of actual autonomy.
The kid’s not entirely wrong. There’s blood in the proverbial turnip but nowhere nearly enough to do the jobs he’s expected to do. Still, when the shit comes down, it tends to come down in the kid’s lap.
It’s not fair. It’s certainly not a sustainable situation. Something’s got to give. Either the parents need to step up and fulfill their responsibilities as parents or they need to divest a degree of power and, what was that word the kid used? – autonomy – in order that the kid can start making actual decisions to best plan for not only his future interests but those of his siblings and, ultimately, his parents.