At eight o’clock every night, one of you takes me into my bedroom and reads a book, such as “Where the Wild Things Are,” before you declare that it is time to go to sleep and that everyone will be going to sleep now. Then you assume that I will blindly trust you and have the emotional capacity to just fall asleep. You call this charade “bedtime.” But I know the truth—I know it isn’t bedtime. In fact, I know that you two are about to open a bottle of wine and get unlimited screen time. These lies—all these years of convincing me that bedtime was important—constitute toxic behavior, and I need you to respect that I will no longer be taking part in this cycle of manipulation.
My next point may be hard for you to hear, but it is important to enforce my boundaries and call folks in when they are not respecting them. Mommy, Daddy—it is narcissistic to expect me to eat any vegetables at any point, and pretending that a piece of broccoli is a train that needs to go through a “tunnel” is gaslighting. You may not remember this, but, on our most recent family outing to the zoo, I discovered what a train actually is, and it is nothing like a piece of broccoli. It is something that you get on to go directly to “Just Some Monkey Business: Introducing Our New Bonobos.” If you can’t respect where I am drawing the line, then you are putting our relationship in jeopardy.
“Abuse of power comes as no surprise,” the artist Jenny Holzer has stated. No surprise, indeed. Despite our obviously imbalanced power dynamic (you have real money, while I have something called KidBux), I am expected to do the emotional and physical labor of placing my Legos in a box and putting my sippy cup on the table. I do all of this not for appropriate compensation but for a measly “Good job, honey!” from Daddy. I wonder what would happen, Daddy, if your boss told you you did a “good job, honey” instead of giving you a salary. I no longer have space in my life for people who don’t understand and accept my worth, and treat me accordingly.
Now for the dreaded bath. Often, around bath time—which I played no part in helping to set—I am pursuing my independent hobbies, like seeing what all of my clothes would look like on the ground, and then seeing what they would all look like inside my play tent. This is an important time for me to ground myself—to care for myself. And then I am told that it’s bath time. If I scream and cry so hard that sound ceases to come out of my mouth, one of you often says, “She’s just sleepy.” My request is that you try to reframe that as “She is advocating for herself, and her emotional bandwidth is at capacity.” And then, while you are reflecting my reality back to me, you may understand why it’s absolutely crucial that I forgo bath time in order to put my stuffed animals in the laundry basket and then get in it with them.
While I continue to advocate for myself, I would like to acknowledge that I am taking care of myself by voicing my needs and that you should both be happy and appreciative of this. In the spirit of healing, I want to drive the car. It’s traumatizing for me to not drive the car. I have the emotional capacity to recognize your reality, and affirm your reality, which is that only Mommy and Daddy drive the car, but I am asking for you to now affirm my reality in which putting me in the car seat and not the driver’s seat is an abuse of our power dynamic. There’s really only one way to right this egregious wrong and that is to let me drive around super fast in circles.
I don’t even want to dignify the generational trauma that has led to not letting me play in the kitty litter as though it were a sandbox. But know that it is a cycle that I would like to end.
I hope you consider my boundaries and respect them going forward. If you can’t, then I am not the daughter for you, and, come Christmastime, I will be moving out of this toxic environment and moving in with Santa. Thank you, Mommy and Daddy, for holding space for me. ♦