Dear son and daughter,
Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about everything I need to tell you and teach you before you’re out in this big wide world all on your own. I want you to remember who you are, who you’ve been since you were just a small child snapping the only two tulips from our front yard when I TOLD YOU not to pick them. I told you that and you HEARD me. Anyway. There are wishes I have for you on your birthday. There are values I hope you hold dear as you grow. And there are moments I hope you look back on and see the truth in, that remind you of who you are and who you’ve always been.
But what I’m thinking is, if I need to share any of that with you I can probably just do that, you know, in our house. Where we live together. And where I see you pretty much every day. I could just talk to you then. And when I’m on “The 9 things I want you to know on your 9th birthday” you can let me get to maybe #3, roll your eyes, and go “Okay Mom” and walk away as these lists so often deserve from the people who they’re theoretically intended for.
If either of my parents wrote a “46 things I wish my 46-year-old daughter would remember about her childhood” I’d probably destroy the Earth. All this to say, I get it. So let’s just talk like people. I say one thing, you say something back maybe, and on it goes. Maybe I jot a few of my thoughts down and give them to you in a card or, really, just keep them for myself because let’s face it, that’s who this shit is really for. Sorry for swearing.
I’m not sure I need to craft an essay and use this faux communication with you as a hook so that strangers can read it and, let’s face it, when I say strangers I mean moms. So that moms can read it and repost it with the caption “So true!” or “Exactly what I would say except to my daughter who’s 5 not 8 and I made half as many mistakes as this lady, everyone on Facebook knows that!” And so that I can enjoy three days of miniscule-fish-in-a-giant-pond quasi-fame before my stats totally crash. I think maybe you’re worth more than that. Because looking back, when I was pregnant with you, my first thought wasn’t “Oh man, I hope these kids grow up to be a literary device someday”.
I also probably don’t need to tweet that open letter to an even more random assortment of strangers, 25% of whom are just straight up dicks who have nothing better to do with their time but troll parents who EVERYONE KNOWS are just waiting for an excuse to unload on someone, anyone, at any time. That goes double for me.
And I probably don’t need to drag you into the delusion that writing to you through the filter of 300-3000 strangers will get me a book deal. Because who the fuck wants to read that book? Not me. And certainly not you. Fuck that book. Actually if there’s one thing I want you both to know in this letter it’s that I swear. A LOT. You have no idea. One day you will (and I very much look forward to the day when we can swear together as a family), but for now you can’t even fathom the self-control. But that’s okay, you still don’t know. Because you’re not gonna read this anyway.
So this is what I’d like to say to you in this open letter that you will not read: You know how much I love you. You know what we’re all about. And if you don’t, this is what I suggest: let’s keep talking. With our voices. In person. Like people do.
With all of the love that I show for you on the Internet minus all the frustration, sarcasm, and utter distraction that is me in person,
Illustration by Byron O'Neill