To My Dear Parents,
This may be one of the most important letters you’ll ever read.
Anyone can create a new life. Many do so without consideration for the reality that may follow. The circumstances don’t really matter. What does matter is what happens when I dare to exist. My life moves forward at record speed even before you’re aware of it. I am a separate person growing in the safety of my mother’s nourishing womb. Her body will undergo a taxing process as I develop, but that’s the easy part as long as my mom takes care of herself and gets the support she needs.
It’s when I’m born that the real work begins. I’m pretty demanding during those first few months. I want what I want when I want it and I’ll cry until I get it. But you knew that, right? My initial care involves merely feeding, changing dirty diapers, and making sure I have nothing to cry about. Yes, you may feel sleep deprived, but it’s still nothing compared to what’s ahead. With every age comes a new set of issues ~ teething, mobility, solid foods, talking, growing awareness of what’s going on in my environment.
I see things. I sense things, even though I might not really understand what’s going on. If there’s tension, I feel it and act accordingly out of need for reassurance and comfort from those I love. If I cry, it’s not because I’m trying to make things worse. I don’t really understand why I’m crying, but you should know that if I’m crying after I’ve been fed, changed, etc., it’s because I’m feeling stressed.
As I get older and begin to understand language, I’m aware of everything you say to each other. I recognize sadness and anger. I feel frightened when I watch people I love being mean to each other. It makes me wonder if you will be mean to me if I make you mad. I’m only a child, though. I’m still learning and growing. My mind is developing and it’s like a sponge, soaking everything up. Everything. I can’t speak up. My voice is limited. What can I say to you that will truly make a difference? Would you listen to me if I asked you to stop fighting? Maybe not. What you have to remember is that we’re a family and, as your child, I feel heartbroken when I see the flashes of anger you direct at each other. I feel confused because I love you both but I don’t know whose side I should be on. Both, I think…
Remember me? I was born because of you. How am I supposed to deal with parents who are too preoccupied with their own issues that they can’t focus on me? I see the looks of contempt between you. How can you do that to someone you’re supposed to love and respect? You created me together and, therefore, took on a binding commitment to raise me to adulthood. Being my parents isn’t as simple as feeding and clothing me. There are lessons I need to learn to carry me, an independent person, through life. I need to know right from wrong. And how to treat other people. My education isn’t just about what I learn in school, but at home, too. If all I ever see is fighting, I’ll think that’s the normal way to conduct myself in future relationships. If all I ever see is one of you abusing the other, I will most likely seek abusive relationships, as an abuser or a victim. Or maybe I won’t, but why expose me to that dynamic at all? Is that what you want for me? Because it’s difficult to break such a cycle.
It hurts me to see my mother cry. I’m powerless to take her pain away. Similarly, I hate watching my father wince when you belittle him. Can’t you see how hard each other works to do their part for our family? If my voice were loud enough, I would tell you both to stop fighting, screaming, yelling, hitting. Every time you do that, I think my family is going to fall apart. I internalize it all and seek ways to deal with the pain, even if those methods are self-destructive.
If you really can’t get along, then quit while you’re ahead. Even I know it’s better for you to live separately, but not if you continually compete for popularity. I don’t want to feel like I’m betraying either one of you for loving both of you. The last thing I want or need is to be bribed with things for you to score brownie points. I don’t want to love one parent more than the other. I just want you to get along well enough to raise me and, also, to be able to co-exist at milestone events throughout my life.
The best gift you can give me is to love and respect each other as my mother and father.