In the summer of 2015, I was five years old and gearing up for first grade. I had been looking forward to orientation for weeks, and I couldn’t wait to meet my new teacher and see my classroom. As luck would have it, I came down with a fever a few days before my orientation, and a sore throat crept in on its heels. The day of my scheduled orientation, I woke up with a fever of 102 degrees, severe pain in my throat, and a painful cough.
This was my 5th day of being sick, but my mother had thus far refused to take me to the doctor. The literature (read: parenting forums) stated not to bring a child to the doctor for a fever unless it lasted for more than 5 days. So despite my prolonged agony, my mother dug in her heals. She had an irrational fear that if she brought me to the doctor, I would be put on antibiotics. And if I only had a virus after all, those antibiotics would contribute to the mutations of drug resistant bacteria, which would infect all of mankind and commence the long-awaited zombie apocalypse.
My mother’s neuroses were not limited to these delusions. She was also prone to dramatic and unpredictable mood swings. She woke me up gently in the morning, and took my temperature, soothing me with her words and stroking my forehead. She reminded me of my orientation, and asked if I still wanted to try to go. I assured her that I did.
However, her comforting demeanor soon faltered when I refused to take my medicine—giant, grape-flavored monstrosities which hurt my throat when I swallowed them. “If you don’t take the medicine, we won’t be able to go to the orientation,” she said. I began to wail. Attending that orientation meant everything to me. Why would she threaten to take that away? We spent the next twenty minutes in a torturous back and forth, as she issued bribes and threats to make me take the pills.
I finally succumbed to her coercion, and took the medicine, but she unhappily informed me that we were now running late. She hurriedly dressed herself, and then my sister and myself, brushing off our concerns that the outfits she picked out did not accurately reflect our style choices for the day. And then came the shoes.
She brought out a pair of faded sneakers and some red socks. If I had told her once, I had told her one hundred times: I don’t like sneakers. She heartlessly informed me that I had left my flip-flops in my dear father’s car, and one of my leather sandals was missing. Sneakers were the only option.
“But I don’t like sneakers!” I yelled.
“You don’t have to like them,” she yelled back. “You just have to wear them!”
What kind of mother yells at her sick child like that? I collapsed into a sobbing heap on the couch, and my mother sat down quietly beside me. “I think it would be better if we don’t go to the orientation today,” she said, once again stroking my forehead. I tried to protest, but finally nodded my consent. Thus, I forfeited my first grade orientation for the greater good of preventing the zombie apocalypse. But I never forgave my mother for trying to make me wear sneakers, and I still bear the psychological scars of that day.