Dear Cookie Monster,
I don’t know what state you will be in when you read this.
Probably simultaneously hating these words, wishing they could fix everything, or thinking that this is all stupid and pointless. I don’t know. What I do know may or may not change your decision, but I hope you read it either way. I’m not here to force you to do anything or to trick you into doing something that you don’t want to do. No smoke and mirrors.
Just this: it’s not about the food.
Food is just a bunch of molecules. Molecules in one form that then get broken down and turned into new molecules. That’s all that food is.
Food isn’t love.
It isn’t your brother’s food that you finally get to eat without anyone getting mad at you. It isn’t someone to play with after school so you aren’t alone in that big empty house. It isn’t your mom giving you a hug and just relaxing for once, laughing and finding you and everything genuinely lovely. It isn’t your dad paying attention to you, wanting you just as you are, rather than drinking scotch and “just wanting to lead a simple life,” which means you being as invisible and perfect and unproblematic as possible. It isn’t a family dinner where you eat what everyone else is eating, even the bread, and you and mom finally get to speak rather than just listen to your dad and brother talk about things that your participation would only be interrupting and so mom just drinks wine and smiles sleepily at you in a sort of unsettling way. It’s not the baking you were forbidden to do, it’s not the snacks that were hidden from you, it’s not other people’s food that you’re stealing. It’s just food. Just a bunch of molecules.
All that food that used to mean so much to you has long since turned to dust.
It is gone, long gone. All of it. Just a bunch of molecules now broken down and dispersed. Scattered and no more.
What you want is not those scattered atoms and particles. What you want is everything those bits and pieces meant at the time. What they symbolized.
I don’t know how to get you what you wanted from those blobs of molecules.
I’ll be honest – I really don’t know. There’s a lot in those blobs that you want, and I don’t know how to get it for you any other way than letting you eat. And eat. And eat.
I want to be for you the person that you needed when you were younger.
Maybe not a parent, because the only parenting styles you and I know of are the inconsistent alternations between the rigid extremes of my mom and the laissez-fair attitude of my dad.
Maybe you can think of me as a big sister. I always wanted one of those. Someone who could help me make sense of things on more of an equal level, be someone strong to rely on and get advice from without there being any consequences for what I told them. You really needed that.
I feel guilty mentioning your brother, but I have to admit he left a very big hole that you desperately wanted filled. He could have been an ally to help you face the world, but he wanted nothing to do with you most of the time. He was a closed door and an empty house. You idolized him and he didn’t want you. That’s how you got your nickname as a baby:
“What do you want?”
“I want a cookie.”
He got a sister instead, although the nickname stuck.
All those holes and empty things that you wanted to be full – those blobs of molecules can’t fill them.
Those holes aren’t the physical cavern of your stomach. They are a deep ache in your chest that feels like it’s caving in on itself. Being alone. Unwanted. Not good enough. Just wanting someone to want you for you, genuinely you. All of you, even the annoying and odd bits.
Well, I want you.
I really do. I want you. And I want to make things better. I can’t go back and fix things, but it’s never too late to heal and grow. I don’t want to be your mom and forbid you from eating things. I don’t want to be your dad and tell you you’re going to get fat if you eat those things. I don’t want to be your brother and get mad at you for eating those things that he was going to eat and you weren’t even supposed to in the first place. I don’t ever want to do that to you.
But I also don’t want to let you sit alone in that big empty house eating cookies until you feel sick.
I want to make things better, genuinely better, and cookies can’t do that. I’m not trying or going to take your cookies away. Don’t get defensive. I’m just telling you what I know now after everything that has happened.
I want to go outside with you in the backyard and kick a ball around. I want to paint your nails and gossip about boys. I want to show you that learning things is really fun and cool and that you’re grades don’t matter in the sense that they’re the only reason you learn things – the grades will come if you love learning. I want to read books with you and play games with you – board games, video games, Legos, dolls, anything. Everything. I just want you to know how special and lovely and fantastic you really are.
It has taken me so long to feel this way about you and I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry I kept trying to make you change into what I thought you were supposed to be when all along you were perfect. You might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you are smart, intuitive, funny, kind, mischievous, and so much more. You are everything, the whole package.
I want to help you the way you needed to be helped. I want to be there for you and guide you. But I can’t do this alone and I won’t drag you through the mud kicking and screaming all the way. I need you to come take my hand and walk with me. Talk to me. Tell me what you want and need.
It has taken me so very long to get here, but please tell me. I’m finally listening. I’m trying, really trying. It might take us a while to figure things out, but I really hope you give me a chance.
So much love,
P.S. Dear Reader:
What is something you need?