You are only 8 years old, so you don’t yet have the life experience to understand the impact of your words—oh, those scathing, mocking words you uttered to me the other day after I threatened bodily harm if you continued to scrape your fork across the tender, swirling grain of my beloved kitchen table:
“How come you always call it ‘your’ kitchen table? Daddy bought it. He buys everything, because he’s the one that works.”
It would seem to you that Daddy buys most things around here, wouldn’t it? After all, he is the breadwinner, the bacon-bringer, the hero. I’m just a work-from-home mom, making only enough to pay for the occasional weekend getaway, your guitar lessons, and a weekly outing to Buffalo Wild Wings. I’m also the cook and the maid and the taxi driver and all those other jobs I would supposedly get paid $200,000 for if I were to be compensated for all the hats I wear. But yes, technically your father is the primary breadwinner. So I can see why you would think Daddy buys “everything.”
My dear son, we will one day have a discussion about how, in the eyes of the law, 50 cents of every dollar your father earns is mine and how the work I contribute to this household has immense value. We will have those discussions.
But not today. Today, I just need to tell you:
The kitchen table is mine—not Daddy’s or yours or even the family’s. Mine.
It’s mine because, when I discovered that scrumptious piece of hunky wooden artwork on Craigslist, I fell in love with it. Sure, it might be just a table, but it’s a beautiful table, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever owned, and it makes me feel good to have this beautiful thing in my space. I cherish it. I want to take care of it.
It’s mine because I got a fantastic deal on it. I searched for months on Craigslist before finding the exact replica (even better!) of the one that was a thousand dollars more in the World Market catalog.
It’s mine because I made the arrangements to borrow your uncle’s truck to go to pick it up and refilled his gas tank for him when I was done.
It’s mine because I used my own muscles to help load all who-knows-how-many-hundred pounds of it into the back of your uncle’s truck and used those same muscles to unload it and scoot it inch by inch down the hallway and into our kitchen.
It’s mine because I’m the one who spreads the plastic cloth over it so that you and your sister can smear play-dough, paint, and whatever those weird little colored balls filled with water are called all over the place without staining it.
It’s mine because I’m the one who prepares the food that we put on it.
It’s mine because I picked the quirky red chairs and gleaming white contemporary light fixture to go with it.
It’s mine because I’m the one who cleans it when you dirty little darlings forget to use the plastic thingy under your artwork and draw all over it with markers (washable, thank goodness I was smart enough to buy washable).
It’s mine because I sweep and mop under it.
But most importantly, Son, the table is mine because I deserve to have one thing in this house that is mine and only mine, and for it not to get destroyed by someone who was absentmindedly dragging a fork across its surface. It’s mine, because to me, it’s more than just a table. To me, the table, in all its sturdy usefulness, its simple beauty, its inevitable surrender to age and wear no matter how careful we are with it, is a metaphor for motherhood. Dear son, the fact that the funds to buy the table were very likely withdrawn from the pile of money your father earned only makes all the foregoing that much more true.
This one pretty thing gets to be mine. Okay?
And, if you’re still not sure, dear child, whether or not the kitchen table is mine, I have one final, indisputable reason:
Because I said so.
This post originally appeared on abandoningpretense.com.