Hey, kid. One day you’re going to learn stuff about your childhood that I’m sure you’re going to insist I explain to you. Things you’ll be certain ruined you, and you’ll probably be right, and I’ll have lost the sharp clarity of my reasoning over the years. So I figure I should write it all down. Save us both the heartache.
Ruining you didn’t take long. By all accounts, I’d completely fucked you up by three. I didn’t wait until you were a vulnerable teen. I did it young, when you were still too young to ever have a chance.
This morning I read an article about how screen time is going to turn you into a homicidal junkie. Those hours I let you watch Finding Nemo and play that bug game that keeps you happy and quiet while I have a glass of wine and try to connect with my husband, they’ve ruined you. You’re going to turn into an antisocial dick with no interaction skills. You’ll never date. You most certainly won’t ever have sex. Your father and I will house you and your collection of black socks and vintage Nintendo sets in our basement until you are imprisoned for life for a crime that could have been avoided if I just hadn’t given you that screen. So I’m sorry about that.
Also, you have a TV in your room. You probably don’t want to hear the speech about how our house isn’t huge and there’s only so much kid space and we wanted your room to be a place where kids could hang out, play, watch movies, AND STAY OUT OF THE ADULTS’ WAY WHILE WE TRIED TO TALK, but I can see how that doesn’t matter. We never should have put that TV in your room. If I’d known it would keep you from getting your first job out of college, I’d have obviously made a different decision.
I stopped breastfeeding at nine months. You won’t get into medical school because of it. I tried to make it okay by buying your formula direct from Germany, but I can understand how that seems like a cop-out. What I should have done was continue to pump. Which I did. After that first four-day stay in the hospital with five clogged ducts, I kept after it. I hooked myself up to that machine for another six months, but in the end I couldn’t take it much longer. I was working these insane 12 hour days and commuting and you were spending so much time with the nanny. When I got home, I had to go straight to pumping instead of hanging out with you, so I stopped. Obviously, I’ll write whatever letters to admissions offices on your behalf, but in the end, the damage is done. You’ll likely amount to nothing because of my selfish decision.
Let’s talk about your blanket. I read a study the other day about how kids with blankets after infancy are actually just emotionally crippled. They lack internal coping skills and can’t fully develop into productive adults. Women find these men repulsive, which leads to feelings of sexual inadequacy.
That wasn’t my intention. You love that damn blanket and its gotten you through some tough times. That blanket had you sleeping through the night at three weeks old. And when your dad and I had to leave you with strangers for 12 hours a day, your daycare report always said you were happy and social as long as blanket was there. It may be hard to understand, but at the time we wanted you to feel safe and happy. We weren’t thinking about you as a sexually frustrated and socially ostracized adult. And that was short-sighted. We should have taken away your blanket and left you there alone. What dumb, naive, first-time parents we were.
I don’t allow your toys out of your room. You’re not allowed to drag endless amounts of kid shit around the house, marking our whole house as yours. I’ve heard a lot of parents and therapists talk about how this will stifle your creativity. Your inability to adequately spread your thoughts around the house will lead you to be a CPA. God knows I never wanted to raise a financial planner, but I needed to maintain something for myself. When you’re chained to your desk at tax season, cursing my name, I’ll understand. I should have known better. I should have given you more.
On your first birthday, I gave you real cake. It wasn’t made with applesauce or mashed potatoes. It was cake. Out of a box. I sprinkled it with cancer and type two diabetes and set it in front of you like the lousy parent that I am. I wanted to see you smash it and taste it and get super excited about the sugar rush. (Which you did.) But that was a silly memory. A moment in time that wasn’t worth poisoning you against beets and steamed broccoli. I never should have done it. But I did. And it’s done.
I let you drink a lot of juice. Not from concentrate or with sugar added, but juice nonetheless. In the morning I let you have green juice and after school I even let you drink chocolate milk. You eat about 16 pounds of green vegetables a day, but those don’t matter. This isn’t about moderation, it’s about the shame and guilt I should feel for giving you juice. So let’s stay focused on that.
I bought you stuff and said yes when I was too tired to say no. So you won’t have a healthy relationship with material goods.
I was honest with you about money from the time you could talk. So you’ll obviously have a childhood riddled with anxiety and concern over the cost burden you add. Then you’ll become a hoarder.
I put you in timeout a lot. And let you cry. One time, I even shut the bathroom door so I wouldn’t have to listen to your insane screaming. But I’ve since read that it causes you shame and you’ll never be able to express yourself emotionally. So, again, I’m sorry.
I referred to you by your gender. A boy. You had a penis so we went with it. You’re welcome to change your mind later, but frankly it was too confusing to try to wait it out and it seemed cruel to call you “it.” I can see now how narrow-minded and confining that choice can seem, but yellow is my least favorite color and, at the time, you seemed just fine being a boy.
The list of things I did to ruin you is so long that I could go on forever. And anything I’ve forgotten will pop up in my inbox or newsfeed. Tomorrow I’ll get an article about what I did wrong or how I ruined you in a new way. I know we’re using the wrong sunscreen, bath products, toothpaste. We don’t eat enough organic and I think you had something with red dye in it last week. I’ve let your shoes get too tight, I once used real detergent instead of the eco-shit (that doesn’t work) because I’d just spent $36 on a shirt and you immediately got watermelon on it. I drank beer while I was pregnant. I ate sushi. I yelled loudly while I was pushing, so your entrance wasn’t the silent sanctuary many psychologists believe is best.
But, kid, I swear to God we love you. I promise you that every day we wake up wanting to make you better, even if that means doing the hard work of making ourselves better. We are human, and we’ve fucked up many, many times, but the road is long. Someday you’ll love someone so much you’ll ruin them too. And I only hope I’m still around so we can have a beer and laugh about how hard it is to love someone so much.