For the Creative-Anxious Parent™ the world is a veritable junkyard of nightmare futures just begging to be collected– what if my child is bullied ferociously? What if my child makes some disgusting sex party urban legend indisputably real? What if my child keeps large, seemingly-immortal snakes as pets? In developing one’s irrational, ultimately pointless parental anxiety, it’s important to integrate less obvious, more esoteric fears into one’s 2:30 am worrying practice. Here, some very specific fears for my children, to get you started! Happy unwarranted anxiety, everybody!
My Son Hates Musical Theater.
One night, as we settle in for Fosse Friday (All That Jazz and Liza with a Z!), my son turns to me. His face– once a model of the overwrought, sell-it-with-the-face expressiveness necessary for the cheap seats– is now unreadable. “I just can’t pretend anymore,” he says, looking away from a tapping Roy Scheider. “People don’t just break into song. This is all so incredibly stupid.” He looks intently into my eyes, like a soulful young Mandy Patinkin. “I HATE musicals, mom.” My mind is all confusion and disgust, like I’m watching a straightforward production of Flower Drum Song. Maybe it’s just isolation-based choreography he doesn’t like?! Did I undersell Jerome Robbins?!?! No one’s defending Starlight Express here! He couldn’t be including a genius like…it explodes from me, like a Mama Rose howl delivered by the master, Patti LuPone: “even SONDHEIM?” “ESPECIALLY Sondheim,” he replies, not even bothering to deliver this devastation in a growly vibrato. He leaves, probably for some sports match, and I am left weeping, googling the best renditions of “Send In The Clowns” (FWIW, tie for #1 is Judi Dench & Bernadette Peters.)
My Children Become Straightedge.
I am initially thrilled that my children show none of my interest in experimentation, as I don’t need them to be as cool as I was (cool kids drink and do drugs, duh). But soon they begin to sneer at my super negligible and not at all problematic wine habit (I’m Italian! It’s ingrained, like my irrational affection for city states and futurist architecture!) They actually chortle at my vivid, transfixing accounts of mind expansions I have known. “I can face reality, mom. I don’t need a crutch!” (their reality– living in my house without jobs– seems pretty livable, tbh.) They go to high school parties just to berate the kids who are drinking, and pick fights with “weak” stoners who “poison” themselves (“leave the poor dumb hippies alone!” I beg them.) They listen to terrible hardcore bands, adopt proto-fascist language about their own “purity” and “strength,” and in their holier-than-thou self-righteousness, make an excellent case for the idea that alcohol and drugs just make you funnier. One night they come home with huge X’s tattooed on the backs of their calves. Like 98% of straightedge kids, they go completely off the rails in college, binge drinking and completely failing to keep their shit together, all because they ignored their mother’s many attempts to school them in the art of proper drug and alcohol use.
My Daughter Becomes the #2 in a Mean Girl Trio.
A mother might find some solace in knowing that her #1 Mean Girl has the power, charisma and confidence necessary to someday command a multinational corporation, or military junta, or lobbyist firm– prodigious despotism can be channeled into lucrative positions of authority with the proper business school education. The #2 though? My Gollum-with-a-blowout daughter does whatever the #1 says (so she’s got no innate leadership qualities) but quietly seethes with resentment and jealousy. She is the most sadistic (bossing the hapless #3, torturing the masses), but lacks the certain je ne sais qua necessary to inflict truly creative trauma. She is a terrifying bully to her mother, whom she publicly mocks when taken for special ‘heart-to-heart cupcake outings,’ because cupcakes are ridiculous and who even eats cupcakes anymore and oh my god mom you are so pathetic. She makes me weep, regularly, at cupcake shops citywide, and I come to believe that her personality’s only hope lies in radical religious conversion or traumatic brain injury.
My Son Becomes an MRA.
It starts with little eye rolls whenever I say privilege (which is, admittedly, a lot.) He is rejected by a series of girls, which I suggest would be helped by letting up on the “I’m a nice guy and girls all hate nice guys” tactic. “What about MEN’S RIGHTS?” becomes his go-to response when learning about any movement in which he is not positioned at the exact center (when he begins to talk about men’s rights re: consent and abortion, I develop a painkiller addiction.) He liberally peppers his conversations with “typical feminist crap,” especially when his sister begins to outachieve him in every respect (“I could get an Olympic gold medal in archery too, if I had tits,” he says on his sister’s birthday. I start doing horse tranquilizers.) I encourage him to actually read some feminist texts, but he refuses, because “those chicks just need a good lay” (my virgin son has yet to meet his longtime gf, who I’m sure is a bot.) One night, I come down to the basement and find him doxxing a feminist writer online. “WHO ARE YOU?” I scream, hurling the laptop across the room. “Who taught you to be this way?” He replies, “You mom! I learned it from watching you!” which I have no response for, because it makes no sense, and also it’s a reference from way before he was even born.
My Children Become Committed, But Utterly Talentless, Folk Singers/Poets.
I initially support their artistic endeavors, because I am a staunch advocate/life model for completely impractical, unprofitable careers. After years of watching their inspiring dedication and an unflappable work ethic, it becomes clear that they are, in fact, very, very, very bad at their chosen art forms. My son earnestly strums his guitar with his eyes closed, a monstrous O-face distorting his once-angelic features while he mutilates completely imbecilic songs about “rain” and “pain.” He makes Jack Johnson sound like Leonard Cohen. My daughter uses her advanced education to pen laborious poems about her “hungry peach,” which she sees as loaded with deeply subtle meaning (“Fruit-Vagina Dentata” is a title I suggest; she is not amused.) I am often the lone audience member for their painful shows and readings, where I maintain a rictus face of elation and pride while dying inside. They are unshakably confident in their ability to “make it” and harbor zero doubts about their abilities. I am incapable of telling them the truth, and take to making passive-aggressive suggestions about grad school and jobs in marketing, which is, I’ve heard, “really creative these days!!!”
My Children Become Neanderthals.
“Do the Dew!” they scream at each other as encouragement (generally before jumping off of something.) “We are all Redsk*n Nation,” they intone in complete seriousness before football games. “Spring Break!” screeches my daughter, cropping her “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirt and sticking out her Surge! Energy-Drinked tongue. They choose schools based on party rankings, and become uber-Greek upon admission. My son communicates in variously-toned “brahs” and owns more white caps than pants, and the longest writing my daughter ever does is of her sorority’s multi-chapter appearance guide for rush. Politically, they “don’t really give a shit as long as I get to keep the mon-ay.” They both find huge financial success in jobs I don’t understand, marry attractive dullards, and come to own more cars than books. They are happy in a straightforward, unquestioning way that is deeply unsettling.
My Children Become Conspiracy Theorists.
“I’m not doing homework,” they announce in 8th grade, “the Mayans predicted the world will end in 2022, so what’s the point?” They talk knowingly about chemtrails, and ruin perfectly nice spritzers with long lectures on what the lamestream media isn’t telling you about fluoridation in the water. When I try to answer their theories with books, or science, or enraged “are you telling me your father and I didn’t live in New York on 9/11 and see it with our own eyes?” they sigh smugly and say something nonsensical about Big Brother, which is especially infuriating since their no-homework policy renders them borderline illiterate and means they haven’t even read 1984. When they somehow manage to find partners as delusional as they are (through their campaign work for Lyndon LaRouche), they announce that they will not be poisoning their children with vaccinations. I begin to plot my grandchildrens’ abductions, using all the dark-ops CIA-trickery my kids have shared through the years.
Misc. Fears, in Alphabetical Order:
A capella Singer
Loonie Tunes Tattooee
Maroon 5 Groupie
Native American Appropriator
Peruvian Pan Musician
Quentin Tarantino Mansplainer
Jessica Roake writes about books, film, politics, and culture for lots of places, but only flexes her feminist film theory muscles for really special people, like you. Follow her on Twitter.