“Come back, I need happy thoughts.” I still keep that text.

We all loved Peter Pan. And why wouldn’t we? He made us forget the mundane world for a moment, he took us on an adventure into the forbidden land of adrenaline and risk and all-or-nothing survival games. He made us all believe we were the only one. Peter Pan was our son, our lover, our husband, our best friend. He made us feel different.

He was different. Why, I would have run barefoot across the country to spend five minutes with Peter!

I said no to him that day. I said no to being his happy thoughts. Walking away felt like having to break through walls of thick stone every step of the way — and yet, if only for one day, if only for that little while — I was free.

It is probably one of the hardest choices you will ever have to make. Understanding that you have been good, that you have done well, that you have, in fact, done nothing wrong — but that your goodness, your very desire to be supportive, have only perpetuated your pain, and the pain of others. You have not helped the one you have tried so hard to love and support. In fact, your unbalanced love had turned him into your own incurable household monster.

“She was an angel,” they said at my mother’s funeral. And in many ways, I guess she was. But she died, and we all kept living. Don’t get me wrong, my father was a sensitive soul who loved me more than anything in the world, but unfortunately he didn’t get to know what love really was. His anxiety, anger and frustration were unleashed — verbally — on the women in the house, and above all, on my mother. Me, he obsessively tried to control, but I ran away at 18, and when we met again, he was the quietest man around. He never raised his voice at me again. Ever.

But I can’t help wondering, what if my mother hadn’t been so supportive? What if she had actually packed her bags and left, secretly, if she was so afraid of his temper tantrums, like I was — wouldn’t this male bully get deflated very quickly much earlier, and we all would have lived happily ever after?

It’s so easy to close your eyes to the truth when you don’t want to see it. You just let it slide by. You just see the boyish innocence behind it all. The loving vulnerable core that each soul has. You think that somehow the rules don’t apply to you. That goodness and kindness will prevail in the end. That somehow we can help them grow up, that by staying around long enough, loving strong enough, by never giving up our efforts to support them — somehow they will see our goodness in the end. And instead they see less and less.

But being an ethereal angel to be used on an “as-needed” basis is hardly a role any human could wish for themselves. As for me, I have too much respect for my pain. I have too much respect for my tears, my grief, for me learning to scream into a pillow, for my prayers and for those days when I thought I could not go on anymore. I have too much respect for my humanity.

There comes a day when we have to let Peter Pan go. When the fairy tale exhausted its lessons and the real world begins.

I have to leave you be where you may either grow up — or perish. And I may wince at your pain. And I may cry for you, because I am human, and because I have a heart — the very heart that somehow makes me seem weak to you. But out of respect for my heart, and for my pain — and for all those whom you have made to suffer, the only hope I have of you standing in your own power is to leave you be. Even if you die trying.

It is time for Peter Pan to grow up. Yes, he taught me how to fly. But I am human, and it is time to walk with my feet on the ground. You can’t have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it. Especially if I am the one being sacrificed for Peter’s pleasures. Let him work for his own happy thoughts.

Let’s help our Peter Pans grow up. Let them learn to walk on their own.