Dear Child, This Is What You Need To Know About Relationships As An Adult

by Elizabeth Broadbent

Dear Baby,

Yes, I called you “baby.” Because no matter how far you tower over me, you’ll always be the tiny baby I brought home from the hospital, the one who immediately squalled to nurse. You will always be the one I wore on my front, the one your father accused me of hogging because I couldn’t get enough snuggles. Even when you were small and red and kind of a misshapen potato, you were still a cute potato. You’ll always be that potato to me.

Why? Because I’m your mother. Never forget this crucial fact, my darling: I labored with you for two days, then I pushed something (you) the size of a largish watermelon out of some lady parts that are, while stretchy, not that fucking stretchy.

I tore so bad it took an hour to stitch — an hour I didn’t notice because I was blissed out from holding you. All the pain and blood and screaming was forgotten in the payoff. Don’t feel guilty about all the pain, but instead look at every woman in the world and treat her as if she’d done the exact same thing for you. You don’t owe me a thing, baby. You owe it to the universe.

Yes, I say the word “fuck” — a remnant of my youthful, college days — but don’t repeat some of my other mistakes. I spent time in college chasing boys instead of studying. I spent time drinking and doing other questionable things, but that gets boring really fast. That crap is not worth your time. And you could be studying, which is what you’re paying for anyway. Don’t waste that money. You do have to pay it back.

But don’t feel like you need to follow the crowd. It’s okay to break the rules now and then. Steal some road cones. Drink shitty beer with friends while you hide from the RA. Better yet, drink shitty beer around a bonfire out in the middle of nowhere.

Make friends with different people. Invite them all over for a costume party featuring black light, bubble machines, and beer. Get to know people of different races and ethnicities. Make friends with the exchange students. Eat everyone’s native food. Most importantly, listen to their stories. Become a citizen of the world, my baby, and do it young, so you’re not working through the hard issues when you’re older.

Develop a political ideology based on the things you see and hear. Know what you believe and stick to it. Protect the vulnerable. Help the oppressed. Support the needy. And always give change to panhandlers. I don’t care what anyone else says, I’m your mother, and I’m telling you to give them a couple bucks whenever you can. It’s not your job to worry about what they use the money for; it’s your job to share what you have.

True story: I fell in love with three men because they listened patiently to these men’s stories and then, in a quiet, dignified way, handed over cash. They were the three best men I ever dated. One of them died. One of them is your Uncle Joey, whom your father loved so much he was in our wedding. The other was your dad.

Most of all, my baby, remember the people everyone forgets to see. Know the name of your janitor — and his kids’ names, too. Say hello to groundskeepers and store clerks and waitresses, and treat them all with that respect you owe the universe.

Tip generously.

Remember that when you drop paper on the ground, or hang clothes on a different rack, or set your crap on the wrong shelf in the grocery store, someone has to pick up after your lazy ass and you’re not a lazy ass. Your parents taught you better than that. Don’t make work for you who has plenty enough to do already. Instead, see them in their invisible labor, and help them as much as you can.

Don’t get a dog until you’re responsible enough to take care of it. You won’t wait for that, and your learning curve will be steep. It’s good training for parenthood. So, make sure you train your pup well. Socialize him, and teach him to like kids. It seems like a million years from now, but this dog will likely be around when you bring that first baby home.

The baby will squall to eat. And like you, will probably resemble a potato.

Your partner will plop down on the couch and feed him. The dogs will gather around and sniff. You will ask your significant other if you can get them anything. You will suggest water, tea, food, Tylenol, the remote. Because you will remember what you owe the universe.

You were brought forth in pain and blood and screaming and love, and love, and more love. So was your child. And for the sake of those labors, of those first desperate glances of our newborns, of the wild joy as we clutch them to our chests, of our dreams as we cradle them at night, we must be kind to one another.

Baby, above all else, remember you’ve got to be kind.