I love you, mom. But as I comb through CVS’s barrage of celebratory cards, twenty minutes late to your birthday dinner, I wonder: Are you worth the $7 I’m forking out for glitter, cheap puns, and a 12-second clip of “La Bamba”?

According to the Google search I ignored your call to conduct, it costs just over $200,000 to raise a child. Factoring in college tuition, holiday and vacation fees, and my above-average orthodontia expenses, we’ll round it up to $500,000.

I hate to do this on your special day, but let’s run the numbers.

Mom, you cut corners in the snack department throughout my life.

You’ve always encouraged me to be my best self. Turns out that, under such pressure, my best self is an anxious, guilt-ridden dumpster fire. Therapy ain’t cheap, especially without medical benefits (which I’ll never have, thanks to your unwavering support of my writing dreams). I estimate $10,000 in emotional damage, on top the $60,000+ I could be making, had you not altered my career trajectory by calling my 2002 sonnet “Death by Alien Orphanage Janitor” a “must-read.”

While we’re on the subject of employment: Did you know sugar babies earn, on average, $5,000 per month? Strippers, $25,000?

If the “I’m Worth Waiting For” pin you fastened on my turtleneck at an eighth grade abstinence retreat predicted anything, it’s that I wouldn’t be worth $300,000 in 2017. As much as I appreciate you pushing me to embrace my appearance and focus on my studies, I’ve measured a negative return on investment for our library outings, museum trips, and Girl Scout jamborees.

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And while I’ve yet to find a sugar daddy interested in platonic crossword puzzling or a strip club that observes Harry Potter weekends, you’ve benefited quite a bit from raising an uncool kid. The values you instilled ruled out drug dealing, money laundering, organ peddling, and getting invited to anything that required me to steal from your underwear drawer. At the very least, I’d like to cash in on the thousands you saved in bail bonds.

There are a few miscellaneous expenses I’d also like to review, while we’re here:

  • You refused to buy athletic equipment after I quit soccer, basketball, swimming, field hockey, tennis, and softball during the first weeks of practice. I was, perhaps, one tryout away from finding my niche. The damage falls anywhere between $20 and $20 million, depending on the weight of my untapped potential.
  • I’ve kept an open tab for every pretend restaurant, school, and salon I opened from ages three to eight. $15,000.
  • You cut corners in the snack department throughout my life. If I wanted to live in a house with cheese ball barrels, I’d let the nearest dad on Ashley Madison beckon me with his dusty, orange fingers. Had Dante envisioned a Dunkaroo-less circle of torment, I’m sure he and Satan would agree: $1,000 is a more than generous deduction.
  • Shopping used to be a biannual affair. As for my sisters, I’ve noticed a steady influx of packages, with receipts indicating $500 spent beyond the predetermined fall and summer dates. And did my bedazzled Vanessa Hudgens’ belt and I miss Forever 21’s announcement that they’re now accepting Kohl’s Cash?
  • I bought you a card last year. $6.75.
  • According to trends in dairy inflation, milk prices may rise $2 next spring. Let’s say— and I’m being ambitious— I move out in three years: that’s 25 (times/year you ask me to pick up milk) minus 18 (times/year I forget or ignore you) multiplied by $5.99 (per gallon in 2018). In the spirit of fairness, I’ll factor out the approximate cups of milk that I consume: 3(((25-18) x 5.99) – 7(5 x 0.37)) = $86.94.
  • We’re on a limited data plan, and I’m using the last of it to research these charges. $240.
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All things considered, I can’t justify spending more than $0.31 on this year’s card. Please know that this doesn’t reflect my feelings. It’s business.

In fact, I’ll sign the card dad bought, above his name and below the hyperbolic “Best Wife Ever” poem, to prove it’s not for lack of thought. You deserve it.

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