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February 17, 2008 / Maleesha Kovnesky

The Paranoia of Mothers

There you go, walking along enjoying your life, not worried about anything except for whether or not you will get off work early enough to go to the happy hour.  One day you wake up and there are other people living in your house, namely a husband and children, and you wonder how it all happened.  Or at least I do.  And you don’t worry too much about the husband, even when he is a photographer who wanders among the high cliffs of lightning bolts and the cougars of death, but you do worry about the wee ones.  All the time.  Especially if you work and have to entrust their little lives to others for a good part of the day.  Moms (except for crack moms and meth moms, probably) all belong to the Major Leagues of Paranoia, to some degree.

Not all mothers are paranoid about injuries, or about germ infestation in their kitchens, or about kidnappers.  And some moms are only paranoid about one of these things, while some are paranoid about all of them and more.  I have certain paranoias when it comes to my children.  Germs are not one of them.  My son often eats off our (disgusting) floor after he drops food on it.  Things like macaroni and cheese.  He also never gets sick.  Immune system strengthening at its best.

They say that people spend most of their lives worried about the wrong things; plane crashes, house fires, wayward asteroids.

My own mother spent most of my childhood worried about:


Every single freaking time my brother and I were around balloons, a strict warning would come from Mom.  She was eagle eyed around balloons.  For you see, at any moment, the balloon could pop, go whizzing around the room, hit us in the back of the throat, at which point we would choke to death on pastel-colored latex.

Smoke detectors

Sleepovers at other houses always followed a long period of questioning and/or phone calls to the other house.  “Do they have smoke detectors?  Is it a trailer house?  Trailer houses burn down faster.  Do they have a back door in case you need to escape?”  The next day when I returned home, follow up questioning took place.  “So did they have smoke detectors?  Do you think they change the batteries in them?”

Of course they had a back door, Mom.  They didn’t live in a cave.

Toasters and coffee pots

Had. To. Be. Unplugged.  At all times.  Otherwise they were certain to burst into flames, because it was in the newspaper once, and it happened to a real family somewhere in Tennessee once.  It was sure to happen to us.  And at that time, we better hope that our smoke detectors had batteries in them.

But here is what Mom should have been paranoid about:


I had some doozy babysitters.  The one that comes to mind as a shining example of babysitting horror is the one who locked my brother in a closet all the time, gave us “snakebites” (or “Indian burns”, depending on what your neighborhood kids called them), brought her boyfriend and his friends over to the house and threatened us with interesting methods of death if we ever told on her.

And of course there was Gramma Gigi.


As children, we ate massive quantities of toothpaste.  This habit started at summer camp, 1985.  There was no candy to be found, so one of the older kids at summer camp suggested we eat our toothpaste.  It was a delightfully minty flavor.  As an adult, I bothered to read the warning label.  It’s really bad to eat toothpaste.  Besides getting fluoride poisoning, your teeth can turn brown and soft.  Gross!  Plus I bet had I not eaten all that toothpaste, I would have ended up smarter than I am today.  If I ever have to get a brain scan, the doctor will be looking at pictures of the inside of my head and say “I see the problem…a class four toothpaste deposit on the right frontal lobe.”

Weird Al

Not Yankovic, of polka fame.  Weird Al was a guy who lived three blocks away from our house.  All the neighborhood kids were obsessed with Weird Al.  No one knew what Weird Al looked like, but we all knew what he sounded like.  When we kids wandered the neighborhood for hours, our paths went by the broken, weedy sidewalk that went by Weird Al’s weird house.  It was brown, with a caving roof.  Plywood was hammered randomly to the side of the house and spray painted with messages: Keep Out.  No Dogs.  Good Morning.  When we walked by, a deep voice would come from the screened in porch.  Weird Al would call out “Hey kids.  <weird laugh here> Come on over.  You can come over.”   We could make out Weird Al’s large shadow.  Later on in junior high, we’d prank call Weird Al during sleepovers.  We kept Weird Al on the phone for hours.

Looking back, he was probably just a lonely old dude with a sorry house.  However, there is a strong possibility that if any of us were stupid enough to go meet Weird Al, our bones would have been discovered centuries later in a slab of cement that used to be his basement.

Now here is what I am paranoid about:


I am always imagining my son eating magnets, for some reason.  This is because I watched the news story from last year about the Magnetix toys that some kid ate, and they stuck together in his intestines, and his intestines ruptured and poisoned him.  I am always looking at the floor for wayward magnets.  You never know what a hidden magnet might roll out of; remote controls, toy dinosaurs, pillows.

I should not worry about this at all because I taught my son at a very early age to bring me little things that he finds on the floor.  Over his three years he has delivered heavy duty staples, nails, tacks, and esophagus-shaped plastic items to me, no problem.  If he found a magnet, I am sure he would use it to hang his artwork on the refrigerator.  Still, I am worried.

Poisonous plants

I watch my son outside to ensure he doesn’t eat the mushrooms that pop up after a good rain.  I watch to make sure he doesn’t taste the pine cones…pine cones are a gateway plant.  I know you can eat dandelions, but I don’t want him to do this because today it’s dandelions, tomorrow it’s a poinsettia.


I don’t even have rattlesnakes around my house.  There is no logic when it comes to paranoia.

And of course I am paranoid about:


We lock it up.



Leave a Comment
  1. Allison / Feb 21 2008 11:15 am

    I’m paranoid about babysitters too. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust a teenage babysitter.

    I’m also paranoid about public playgrounds (must watch for abductors and mean kids all the time), swimming pools (I could never have a pool with a little one), and undetected exits from the house (thank God for door knob covers).

  2. pikespeakdenise / Feb 19 2008 5:44 pm

    I should be more paranoid about peanuts.

  3. cherikooka / Feb 19 2008 1:36 pm

    I was a paranoid mother, but it was mostly paranoia of aliens abducting my baby.

  4. Christine / Feb 17 2008 6:03 pm

    The pine cones got me too. ROFL

  5. Ian Thomas Healy / Feb 17 2008 11:39 am

    Pine cones as a gateway plant. LMAO


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