I once had a dream where my father was going to do some sort of dental surgery on me for free. He likewise organized for one of his colleagues to do something on McKenzie for a steep discount. I arrived at his office and had one of the babies with me. He started to get frustrated at having them around and he started grumbling out of frustration that he was having to give me the surgery for free. He had calculated how much he would have otherwise charged and made sure I knew about it. He was giving out of feeling of being obligated to give to me, but at his core he resented having to do so. I then absolutely flipped out in anger towards him about how if he is not happy to give to me then I don’t want it at all. I really started violently chewing him out. This has been a recurring dream for me. I have had similar dreams to this, perhaps 4 or more times in the last decade. The context changes, but the main idea is the same.
The biggest fights I have had with my father have revolved around this question. I project onto him the expectation that he happily give to me what I perceive as normal (child support when we were kids, college education, dental care), he then falls short of my expectations and I develop resentment towards him for that. He gives some, but not as much as I expect him to. He senses my resentment, and then himself grows resentful towards giving to me because I am ungrateful for what he does give. His giving is then no longer freely given, but done in order to avoid my getting upset at him. He then always has to worry about whether I am going to get upset at him about things like this. This then makes him resentful. I then pick up on this resentment and the whole cycle starts over again.
Even if it is true that him paying for these things is ‘normal’, I am clearly the problem here and largely responsible for the dysfunctional dynamic. If he does not give to me, it is because I have failed to give to others in the past. If he resents giving, it is because I was like that in the past. This also makes him an object of compassion, not anger. Though often, when I consider him an object of compassion, I try change him in his ways, but this too just feeds the dynamic. I need to stop that too. In reality, nobody owes us anything. When we expect from others more than they give all we do is destroy the joy of their giving (thus violating the bodhisattva vows of causing others to regret their virtues), make it harder for them to give in the future because people don’t like giving out of fear of the other person getting angry at not giving, and generally destroy our relationship with the person. We should quite simply be happy and grateful for whatever people do give us freely, understanding that nobody owes us anything. So anything they give is nothing short of a miracle. To expect more is to be a spoiled brat.
When I have discussed this with my father in the past, he explains that from his perspective he agrees with the logic of giving, but he is balancing the virtue of giving with the virtue of creating the conditions which force me to learn to stand on my own two feet (which is for my own good). All kids would rather their parents do it for them, but this makes them lazy, dependent, non-self-sufficient and interferes with them growing up. So philosophically, he says he doesn’t disagree with me, he just draws the line between these two competing virtues somewhere different than I do. This is a fair point.
Clearly this is an area where I still have unresolved anger and lack of gratitude. I am making myself and him miserable with this, and I am creating the karma for similar problems with my own kids in the future. Short conclusion: expect nothing, be grateful for anything.