I wrote a book of off-beat baby milestones recently. (The first time your baby rolls off the bed, etc. You can buy it here if you want.) And while my editor and I were in agreement on most stuff, there was one specific milestone I wound up having to cut from the book that I didn’t want to cut. And I totally understand why we had to do it (INSERT LONG, BORING EXPLANATION) but I was still sorry to cut this milestone since, in a weird way, it was one of the biggest milestones for me.
So while it may not have made it into the book, I included it below.
The First Time You Fully Appreciate Your Own Parents
Dear My Parents (in my case, mainly my mother),
We are different people.
There is advice you have given me that I am never going to take even if, possibly, it is perfectly good advice.
(“Have you ever thought about ironing your shirts? They look so much nicer when they’re ironed.”)
There are people you might love for me to be like who I will never be like.
(Did you know Janet Leroy’s daughter is an oncologist whose practice was just written up in the Times and I heard that she married a corporate lawyer and both of them always iron their shirts??)
There are things you would love for me to think or do that I will never think or do.
(I know you’re going to say no, but have you ever thought about whitening your teeth?? Because it might distract from your clothes being so wrinkled.)
And when I was younger you would do that thing where you’d say “Someday if you have kids you’ll understand” and I would do that thing where I rolled my eyes and rode off on my bicycle because ugh, whatever you were saying was so boring I was practically falling asleep while listening to you.
But that, “Someday if you have kids you’ll understand” is the whole reason I’m writing this letter.
Because now I have kids.
And here’s the thing…
We are still different people and there are tons of things about you that I still do not understand. Many of your fashion choices. Your love of unexceptional cop shows. The almost religious dedication with which you collect Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. There were many times during my childhood when you said “No” to something which I now understand but still don’t agree with and there are things that upset you that still do not make me upset. There are dozens of things on which we don’t, and may never, see eye-to-eye.
But here’s what I did learn. (And I swear, I really did learn something).
Upon becoming a parent myself, I realized how much you love me.
And HO-LY F***ING SH*T.
And I AM SORRY! I’m sorry already, because I know you don’t like it when I curse. But the fact that you have loved me this much for this many years without my ever realizing or catching on was like the wildest plot twist/character reveal in a movie that I never in a million years saw coming. In a world in which every surprise ending is given away by online Facebook spoilers, the fact that you have loved me this intensely for this long without my ever having figured it out knocks me clear off my feet and onto the armchair you quietly wish I would have steam cleaned.
I knew, obviously, that you loved me. But that you have loved me this much for over three decades and I never realized it? It is almost embarrassing. It is like watching a humdrum secondary character from a movie pulling off their mask and revealing that they have been the main character the whole time.
You did a wonderful job. Please know that. Parenting is impossible and I know that I will not be a perfect parent in the same way that you were not a perfect parent, but regardless of all the parent/child nonsense we’ve been through in the past or whatever craziness is in store for us in the future, please know that your efforts are, from the bottom of my heart, appreciated.
I love you so much. Thank you again for everything. Really.
* * *
If you enjoyed the post, the book with the other 100 milestones is called Welcome to the Club: 100 Parenting Milestones You Never Saw Coming and can be purchased (for yourself or for any pregnant people you know) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indiebound. Also, you can follow The Ugly Volvo on Facebook or Twitter.
For all the people who’ve asked why it this milestone was cut, it was because she felt like it was the type of milestone that had to be at the very end or not at all and we decided to end on another one.
And if you see my parents, give them a hug from me.