When I was three, my parents moved us to Costa Mesa, an Orange County suburb, back when the word suburb still had some meaning. We lived on a cul-de-sac in a subdivision whose streets were named after Pacific islands. There were two other families in our end of the street, and some of the kids were around my age.

We played. We fought. Our parents intervened. We played. We fought. Our parents intervened again. Repeat ad nauseam.

And then came the Star Wars action figures.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: all of us kids had the same action figures. We all played with all our figures together. And we would all fight about whose figures were whose when it was time to go home.

Our moms, sick of this bullshit, came up with a novel solution: applying a heated nail to the feet of our toys. One dot for this family, two dots for this family, three for another. This system worked, even though it meant the toys were now ruined for future toy hoarders (but it has made it easier to justify breaking them out for my kid).

And then we fought about something else

I have no idea how much of this I can chalk up to being human, how much to environment, how much to living in the United States during the late stages of the Anthropocene. What I do know is that I’m seeing the same bullshit with my kid, and it makes me want to apologize to my mom for whatever I must have done when I was her age.

The kid and her best friend love Frozen. They have bonded over ice powers and “Let It Go,” and they run around and chase each other and act like two rambunctious, happy kids should. This also means they’ll fight over the dumbest, territorial stuff, and, man, I’m about at my limit. Fighting over what game to play. Fighting over what toy to play with. Fighting over fighting.

And all I can do is separate them when it gets physical and try to explain to my kid that, no, her toys are not her friends. They are things, and things cannot love you back, no matter how much you insist to the contrary. People can love you back, so it would be a good idea to be nice to the people in your lives.

Mom, when you eventually read this: thank you for not selling me off for scientific experiments. However I was when I was five, I apologize.