An Open Letter To My Son, Who Lives Outside My Body

open letter son open letter son
courtesy Emily Farris

My sweet, sweet child,

You’ve existed outside my body for nearly three years, and even though everyone told me how much I’d love you, I couldn’t really comprehend how intense that love would be. Unfortunately, those same people failed to warn me that love would be accompanied by Fear that’s just as strong. Maybe it’s because I’m generally pretty chill. Well, I used to be, anyway.

At first, I thought it might be a little postpartum anxiety. And perhaps it was. Many new moms struggle with this — even Chrissy Teigen! But how could a person not have some anxiety after birthing a child? Being responsible for a helpless new life is overwhelming and terrifying — especially when you’re on three hours of sleep. I shouldn’t even be trusted to keep plants alive on three hours of sleep. But there I was, your main source of food, warmth, health, and comfort. You needed me round the clock; I mean, who else was going to watch your chest go up and down in sleep to make sure you were still breathing?

But then you got bigger and stronger (unlike most of my plants; RIP Fiddle-Leaf Fig), and my anxieties shifted. I worried less about producing enough breast milk or you accidentally rolling onto your belly at night, and, instead, graduated to panicking about the measles break out in our city — at our grocery store! — even though you were up to date on your vaccines. Science says having a baby changes a mother’s brain, causing her to worry more, but I have a feeling it’s compounded by the fact that this is just a terrifying time to be a parent.

courtesy Emily Farris

Every day, I properly strap you into the safest car seat on the market (seriously, it’s the only user’s manual I’ve ever read cover to cover, or read at all, for that matter). Still, each time we merge onto the highway, I get a little nervous, because for some reason, people think it’s okay to text and drive WHEN I HAVE MY CHILD ON THE ROAD.

Speaking of the car, even if I wasn’t afraid of leaving you in it for 32 seconds while I run into a gas station (which I totally am!) I would be afraid of getting arrested for it. But let’s be honest, you’re probably a lot safer alone in a car for a couple minutes than you are in a school. That reminds me: Do you want a blue or a red bulletproof backpack? Unfortunately, they don’t have a Spiderman one yet. Maybe if we wait a few more months they will! I imagine it’s only a matter of time.

I know I can’t let my fear keep me from sending you to school, though. You need an education. And school is good for your social development. Unless you’re bullied. Don’t let them bully you, okay? Be strong. And stand up for your friends, too — especially your friends of color (their moms have anxiety every time they walk out the door). But don’t be too strong. Please don’t become a toxic white male. It’s okay to cry. I’ll hold you when you cry. I mean, as long as I’m here. They’re shooting writers now, too, you know.

courtesy Emily Farris

Ugh. This is getting dark. Remind me someday to tell you all about how I used to play outside as a kid. Like, alone, without my parents watching me. Sometimes I’d even get a tick on my leg and I’d have to pull it off with tweezers. It was actually kinda cool. Of course, that was before all the ticks carried diseases. Did you know there’s even one that can give you a meat allergy? Though now that I think about it, I guess that’s not the worst thing in the world, since we should probably be eating less meat if we want to slow global warming at least enough to leave the planet livable for you and your kids (unless those cheap bath toys I gave you made you sterile?!). Maybe living on Mars will be a thing by then. Oh, god! Are you going to get drafted by the Space Force?

Hey, at least we don’t go to church, so I guess that’s one less thing I need to worry about.

Love you forever, my sweet boy.

– Mama

Like what you see? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!

Emily Farris lives in Kansas City, MO with her burly husband, toddler son, and two rowdy rescue mutts. She's written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and The Cut. When not busy cleaning up somebody's pee, she's posting about drinks and home decor on Instagram @thatemilyfarris.