To The College Kids Who Need 'Safe Spaces': Parenting Is Gonna Kick Your *ss

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
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At college campuses all across America, our young men and women are being triggered. It’s an epidemic of stress brought on by an ominous, creeping plague that society has given a special name: microaggressions. So dangerous are these microaggressions and the trauma they trigger that they’re requiring the need for campus safe spaces, on-site therapists, and even mind spas to ensure that the fragile few who are triggered don’t leap from a building on their way to the campus dining hall.

What exactly are these triggers that have made scads of coddled 19-year-olds so uncomfortable that they now require shielding from such fate? Rape? Violence? Guns? Sadly, no. Microaggressions are things like when coeds wear sombreros and fake mustaches at a fiesta-themed fraternity party (racist and offensive to Latino students) or when Greek mythology classes contain violent and often offensive themes (oh the horror of Ovid’s Metamorphoses). That last one is really a thing—just ask Columbia University.

There’s an entire generation of people currently walking around thinking that somewhere in the Bill of Rights is the right to not be offended—like, by anything. It would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that these people will one day be parents, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a parent, it’s that there is a lot of shit that’s gonna want to make you run away to a “safe space” and bawl your eyes out. But guess what? You can’t!

So listen up college kids, it’s time to grow a pair and ready yourself for the real traumatic triggers and microaggressions in life that are headed your way. They’re called kids, and here are a few things that will really make you want to crawl into your “safe space”:

1. Themed Birthday Parties

If you thought someone dressed like Speedy Gonzalez was stressful, wait until you’re served greasy pizza by an 8-foot-tall rat and then you have to dive head first into a booger-filled ball bit for a pacifier.

2. Stories That Don’t Have a Happy Ending

We no longer own Love You Forever. I threw that emotional mess of a book out the window after I realized that getting to the end would send me into a three-day depression. But get used to it, future parents, because great kid lit doesn’t come with an emotional trigger warning. Better hope your little wizard isn’t a Harry Potter fan, because Dumbledore DIES. Deal with it.

3. Hate Speech and Foul Language

If you cannot handle a person saying mean things and blurting out profanity, I suggest the day your child turns 13 you either push them out of a moving car or learn to completely tune them out. Either tactic will work.

4. Music With Misogynistic and Racist Lyrics

Don’t let your teenagers listen to anything on today’s pop charts or any music by artists in a certain genre who frequently use the “N” word, because it’s all offensive in one way or another. Go classical, or here’s a crazy idea, realize it’s just music, and people are free to sing about whatever they want to.

5. Human Dignity Atrocities

You’re going to be defecated on, peed on, and puked on. You’re going to have your nipples twisted, pulled, bitten, and chewed on. Your hair is going to be pulled out by chubby fingers with a death grip. You’re gonna be pinched, prodded, poked, and pushed on, and that’s just by your doctor—wait until a 3-year-old does it. Your calcium, iron, and vitamin stores will all be depleted from your body in just 40 weeks. Your perky breasts will go from porn-star fabulous-ness to empty sock pockets before you can say “Miracle Bra.” There is no dignity in parenting, my friend.

6. Groups With Exclusive Memberships

Playgroup moms will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t mother exactly like they do. There is a preschool parenting pecking order and group exclusivity that takes in the early years. My advice? Your “safe space” is the mom friend who comes over at 10 a.m. asking if she can borrow some triple sec and coarse salt—follow her home at nap time.

7. Your Body Is Your Own and Should Never Be Violated

Except when you’re in labor and a dozen med students happen to appear when you’re spread eagle and 8 centimeters dilated and they just want to “have a feel.” Sure, go for it! My body is your learning tool! Now, tell me again about how your body is a wonderland and deserves total autonomy?

8. Parenting Experts

Listen up, college kids, because this is where it gets good. Parenting is going to smack you right across your overly sensitive and coddled face, but in a very, very good way. You will be brought to your knees with despair and doubt, both on the day you bring your baby home from the hospital and the day they move out and go to college. Friends, immediate family, books, and even total strangers are going to tell you all the time how you’re doing it wrong, and you’re going to need the mental maturity and vulnerability to learn to separate the golden nuggets of wisdom from the bullshit.

Those social causes you used to march and rally for? They don’t hold a candle to the new cause you will forever be rallying for: your kid. Your intolerance for those who don’t think exactly like you will be transformed into real tolerance as your heart grows softer and more empathetic to the struggles and stresses every parent faces, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or political beliefs.

You will no longer see a Christian, an atheist, a liberal, or a conservative. You will just see another parent also walking through life with their fragile heart (their kid!) now beating on the vulnerable outside of their bodies. That heart first beat within them, then crawled underfoot, then walked clumsily, then rode a bike, then waved goodbye as they stepped on the school bus, and will one day give them a big hug before climbing the college dorm steps.

All of it, every single second of parenting, is one big microaggression. It’s going to make you question and yell and fight and demand and cry and listen and ultimately force you to take leaps of faith you never thought possible. You will need the strength and courage to accept things you vehemently despise, and you’ll need the grace to handle circumstances that disgust you.

And so, even if right now you can’t handle a fake mustache and a sombrero or scary myths and politically incorrect memes, I still have hope that when you become parents one day that your delicate, paper-thin skin will finally thicken. It had better. If not, just send the kids to grandma’s house.

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