Why I Seem Weird: A Mother's Day Letter to My Kids

Dear kids,

Happy Mother’s Day! To me! I couldn’t have gotten here without you. Thank you for all of your Mother’s Day gifts over the past 23 years, all the kisses and hugs, handmade pictures of your handprint, flowers, and funny cards with other people’s heads Photoshopped in pictures with me. I appreciate everything you’ve ever given me, but will not stop requesting to go to the Waffle House for breakfast until I finally get my wish.

I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why I’ve done some of the stupid things I’ve done since you’ve been born. Parenting is the weirdest job in the world. You can’t even imagine it. You’ll think you know yourself and your decision-making abilities, and then you’ll have kids and you’ll find yourself allowing and forbidding things that make sense to no one but you.  Trust me, and remember this letter when you’re 35 and you allow your 10-year-old to go to Europe with the neighbors who you suspect are going there to score drugs, but you won’t let him cross the street without holding your hand. It may not seem to make sense now, but when you’re a parent it will all seem perfectly normal.

Parenting is basically a series of decisions. Starting with breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, pacifier or listen to a screaming baby go through withdrawal, and continuing into public school or private, soccer or cheerleading, the shirt she wants to wear or the shirt you want her to wear, yes you can go over to Jessie’s house or no Jessie’s parents have guns and they smoke. Parenting is just decision after decision. And frankly we have no idea what we’re doing.

There is no test you have to pass to be a parent. No one asks you any questions on your way out of the hospital with your newborn (other than, did you take any supplies home in your suitcase). And even if they did and you answered incorrectly, you would still be allowed to take your baby home and raise it however you wanted.

There is no 1-800 number you can call with your questions. You have to wait until you screw up and do something wrong and then you’re allowed to call the police or poison control, where you’ll get a lecture on how not to do that ever again. (Yeah, well, I know that now. Where were you before this happened?)

We’re all just winging it, letting you do some things and forbidding you from doing other things. Yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, yes, no, we’ll see, are you kidding? absolutely not. Day in and day out.

Remember the time I let Mike ride in the trunk of the mini-van, curled up in a ball for an entire week when we had company and wanted to fit everyone into the same vehicle? And then I wouldn’t let him go in the water at the beach, for fear he’d drown or get eaten by sharks. Dry as a bone and alive, I stuffed him into the trunk for the death-defying ride home.

I let you eat lunchmeat that had warning labels on it, but then cut it up into really small pieces so you wouldn’t choke.

Jack, I let you go to the top of some of the tallest structures in the country, in some of the most rickety elevators in the country, but I wouldn’t let you play football.

Mike, when you send me photos of you in China, I can look at the ones where you’re walking through what looks like an opium den, you posed next to people with strange satanic tattoos, you eating things with eyeballs and antennae, and the pictures of your apartment (which I notice has no smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors and I know for a fact you don’t know how to properly work that stove), and I’m fine. However, I looked at the photo of you standing on top of a cliff near Dalian and I silently screamed, “YOU’RE TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE! GET HOME RIGHT NOW!”

The things we fear for you are irrational. The things we don’t fear for you and let you do with a clear conscience don’t make any sense either.

I know you’re all grown up now, and I’m fine with most of the adventurous stuff you do, but I still won’t let you go to the Grand Canyon unless you’re on a leash.

You’ll understand when you have kids of your own.

Now one of you, climb up on that broken ladder and get me that box of old pictures off the top shelf of the garage. I need to reminisce and celebrate that my excellent parenting has kept you alive and safe thus far.

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