If someone showed up tomorrow and paid off my mortgage, I'd be a happy guy. I'd dance a jig (after taking a class to learn how jigs are danced) because I know how much money I owe on my house, and therefore know the amount someone forked over to the bank so I don't have to make any more payments.
I also know how much I owe in student loans, hospital bills, company debt, and credit card fees. I know what I spend on groceries and gas every month, and how much I need to spend to get to Chicago next month to officiate Matt's wedding.
It's easy to keep track of the dollars and cents we owe. They're just numbers. They're uncreative and boring. Numbers always are. And even if they don't lie, they also don't tell the truth. After all, weight and age are just numbers, too. You can tell me what they are for you, but I'm smart enough to know that's not the whole picture.
Same goes with the debts I owe, because what's due each month on my house pales in comparison to the debts I can't repay.
Each weekday, I drive to my parents' house to drop off my daughter at Babysitter's Club, the aptly named operation consisting of my mom and sister who watch Lindley while my wife and I are at work. They feed her and change her diaper and rock her to sleep and make sure she gets enough tummy time. They sit on the front porch with her until it's quitting time and I or her mom rush over to pick her up so we can take her home to feed her and read to her and put her to bed and then press "repeat" so we can do it again until Saturday.
Sometimes they dress her in whatever they can find, like polka-dot tights and red shorts and a peanut bib because aunts and grannies like to have fun. And she's a baby and has no idea what she's wearing. But she knows she's constantly around people who love her.
She goes to a professional day care one day a week (I once called it a "real" day care and was quickly reprimanded, as if Babysitter's Club is less than legitimate). We pay for that. She'll start going four days a week this summer. I suppose if they wanted, Babysitter's Club could bill me for all the hours they've spent heating bottles and changing out bibs. And they might come up with a dollar amount and I'd work like hell to remit payment. But it wouldn't come close to what they're owed in full.
And that's why my family doesn't keep score. When you keep score, someone wins and someone loses. Send me a bill, and maybe I take out a second mortgage to pay it, or maybe it's a steal. Either way, someone's at a disadvantage. And if your family puts you at a disadvantage, where are you supposed to turn when you need something so you can take advantage of other opportunities in this great big world of ours?
And once again, we see the beauty of family. Having children makes you realize you are not the terminal generation. This does not end with you. You don't pay it back. You pay it forward. Every time Lindley spits up on my pants, a great cosmic rebalancing is happening, making up for all the times I spit up on my mom when I was my daughter's age. And it just may happen that a few decades from now (please, God, not 16 years from now), I'll be running my own Babysitter's Club where we, too, send out no invoices and take in grandchildren.