"Owes you and has to repay?" Qiao Dongliang smiled coldly. "Who was the one who suggested having a second child, trying for a son?"
Back then, it was Old Ding who said that it would be too lonely to just have Zijin in the family and that they should have a second child. Even though it was against national planning policy, Old Ding said that having a second child was more important than work or career prospects.
Qiao Dongliang admitted that he was undoubtedly a traditional Chinese man who felt the need for a son to carry on his family name. But he also knew that such things could not be forced.
Upon listening to his wife's suggestion, he was tempted or rather muddle-headed enough to give up his work and future, all to try for a son.
Qiao Dongliang did not have any regrets having this daughter, Qiao Nan. What he regretted was giving up everything for having a son.
If not, his wife would not put all the blame of quitting their jobs and not giving birth to a son on Nan Nan.
"Old Ding, I kept quiet but that doesn't mean I was unaware. You should know what it was like at Ding family and how you grew up at that family. So now you want Nan Nan to go through all the hardships you faced? Is it Nan Nan who owes you or you who owes Nan Nan?"
Ding Jiayi grew up in a family that was extremely patriarchal. Back then it was the old friend of Qiao Dongliang's father, a veteran cadre who introduced Ding Jiayi to Qiao Dongliang. The veteran cadre was hoping that they would lead a better life.
Qiao Dongliang's parents had passed away and he did not have any relatives.
For people like him, it was very difficult to get married.
It just so happened that Qiao Dongliang was only a platoon leader then, slightly better than an average soldier, but did not have good prospects. So it was difficult to find someone of matching status. People from lower rank would not do, while people from higher rank would not take a fancy to him.
And so it was difficult to find a wife.
As for Ding Jiayi, she came from an average family, but she had three younger brothers.
Her parents wanted to hold a grand wedding for their three sons and they would each have their own house; and so there was not enough money to get by.
So her parents decided to set their sights on their daughter, Ding Jiayi.
Ding Jiayi brought up her three brothers single handedly. In spite of this she was like the servant in the Ding family. She had to do all the chores but there was never enough for her to eat and she still got frequent scoldings from her parents.
But Ding Jiayi was not stupid, she made use of the chance to read her brother's books while looking after him.
At times, she could even coach her brother in his studies.
And so with the on and off studying, Ding Jiayi finally managed to grasp the elementary school syllabus through self study. She managed to learn most of the Chinese characters.
In Ding Jiayi's time, her standard was considered very high.
When Ding Jiayi grew up, her parents had no intention of keeping her at home. They wanted her to work and earn money to support the family.
Their idea was to find a "good family" for her, get a good bride price and marry her off.
At that time, Ding's parents had already sourced a family and even decided on a bride price. Even though they were marrying off their daughter, everyone could tell that they were in fact selling off their daughter.
Ding Jiayi's future husband was not only short, he was already in his forties, even older than her father.
But the problem was, after the cultural revolution, he was considered a good catch. He knew how to have fun, served as a vanguard, and was a man of certain authority.
Ding's father had in fact found a son-in-law who served the government.
He was old and ugly-looking, but what was worse was his foul temper. No-one had any idea what had happened to his previous wife who had passed away.
Knowing that she was to be married to a man like him, Ding Jiayi almost wanted to die.
News spread and the veteran cadre knew about this. His old friend was framed by others. As a result, his son who served in the army had no good prospects. Furthermore he did not have any relatives and had difficulties in finding a wife.
He surmised that this lady was decent looking and well-educated, except for the fact that her family was not really dependable. The two of them would make a good match.
The veteran cadre did not want to throw two unknown people together. He informed Qiao Dongliang and Ding Jiayi of the other's situation and let them decide for themselves.
Ding Jiayi said yes immediately when she learned of Qiao Dongliang's situation.
At that time, being a soldier was the best occupation.
No elders at home? That was fine. When she married into the family, she would be the mistress of the house, with no parents-in-law to order her around and she would not need to take care of them.
It was fine that he did not have any siblings. As long as he worked hard, it would be better.
While Ding Jiayi agreed in an instant, Qiao Dongliang had some doubts. However he accepted in the end and so they ended up getting married.
Because of Qiao Dongliang, the veteran cadre helped Ding Jiayi to secure a pretty decent job. She not only got married but also led a much better life.
At that time, Ding Jiayi felt that marrying Qiao Dongliang was the wisest decision she had made in her life.
Ding Jiayi came from a very patriarchal family. Since a young age she had to bring up her three brothers and handle everything by herself.
Ever since having her elder daughter, Ding Jiayi came out of her disappointment quickly and doted on her daughter. She wanted her to have everything that she had missed out on when she was young.
When Qiao Nan was born, though she was also a daughter, things were totally different.
"Back then you said that we should sacrifice our jobs to have a second child. You begged me to have a second child. For that, I left my favorite army. Old Ding, I made a lot more sacrifices than you to have this child. Nan Nan wasn't a boy but a girl. But can we blame her for that? You couldn't bear me a son, and you still dare to blame our daughter?!"
Qiao Dongliang got all riled up as he spoke and raised his voice.
After having their elder daughter, Qiao Dongliang sorted out his thoughts and consoled himself that daughters and sons were all the same. Furthermore, he really loved the army life. He enjoyed being a soldier. His father always said that he was born to be a soldier.
For the sake of continuing working in the army, Qiao Dongliang decided to concentrate on nurturing his elder daughter.
But when he finally stopped thinking of having a son, Ding Jiayi became bent on having one.
"Now you are blaming me?!" Ding Jiayi seemed like a porcupine who stuck out all its spines. "Who was the one who said that sons and daughters are the same, and that he would not blame me for not carrying on the family line, having no offspring. Old Qiao, you are so bizarre in your thinking!"
Ding Jiayi hated it the most when someone said she could not bear a son. She gave birth to two daughters consecutively and ended up losing both of their jobs.
For this, her mother once came from faraway with her grandson, mocking Ding Jiayi for being so heartless, saying that Heaven had punished her and now she could not bear a son.