Ask any parent what their worst nightmare is and then immediately cancel any plans you had for the next three days. Because that’s how long they will take to answer you. Because parents are worried about everything.
For instance, among my top worst nightmare scenarios are:
A serial killer named Meatclaw kidnaps my children.
My daughter dies of scurvy because all she’ll eat is plain noodles.
My son turns out to be awesome at soccer and all my weekend days have to be spent sober and pretending to like soccer.
My grandchildren will have to participate in The Hunger Games in the dystopian future, which they will lose because no one in my family knows how to shoot an arrow OR how to do a fancy side braid.
I get cancer and die. My husband, overwhelmed with grief, gets tricked into marrying my vapid, bimbo nurse Trixie after my funeral and she then raises my kids to be the kind of humans who genuinely enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians.
Prohibition comes back and I am arrested for Googling “how to make bathtub gin”.
And none of those things address the daily onslaught of new things we as parents are told to be afraid of, like haunted YouTube shows that possess children and studies that prove babies who didn’t learn Mandarin in utero will never get into college and that helicopter parenting is causing rebellious kindergartners to start snorting pure uncut sugar.
Of course, it’s not all death and delinquency and illicit moonshine runs. The mundane can be almost as terrifying when you have kids. For example, at some point on that mental list that every parent has, probably down around No. 37, is the nightmare of the missing sippy cup.
Oh god, the dreaded missing sippy cup. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s been on the back of your mind for awhile, the fact that you can’t remember the last time you saw it. And even though you’ve been known to struggle with anything above second grade math, you instantly do some fancy algebra in your head and deduce that there are two in the dishwasher, one in the cupboard, two they’re currently drinking out of and one being used as part of a load-bearing wall in the Fortress of Generic Blocks in the living room.
Which leaves one completely unaccounted for. And after some more fancy mental calculations, you realize it’s been unaccounted for since Tuesday. And nope. Not that Tuesday. Last LAST Tuesday.
That’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that, unlike all of the tiny missing socks (which is about 1/3 of the total tiny sock population) and all those missing pens from the junk drawer, which I imagine are living blissfully together on some tropical island with all 12,000 of my missing bobby pins, sippy cups never stay lost. Oh no. They will mysteriously show up again. Right when their contents have ripened to their peak of nightmarish horror.
And despite the fact that when you asked your children to help you find this very same cup two weeks ago and they just did a series of figure-eights around your legs while repeatedly asking “where did it go? huh…”, it always, inevitably, reappears in their little hands when it makes its grand re-entrance, not yours.
Then, when that moment comes, that moment when one of your precious angels that you spent 36 hours bringing into this world on the sheer power of creative curse words alone runs up to you with a brightly painted cup of toxic sludge, a million more horrific questions run through your mind:
What unholy concoction is now in there? And has it gained sentience yet?
How much spoiled milk can a 30-pound body take before permanent damage occurs?
What strange alchemy must take place to turn apple juice that shade of green?
Or…wait…I think this used to be orange juice?
Does grape juice ferment into alcohol after so long? And if it does, how much prison kiddie wine did my child just drink before he alerted me that he found the missing cup?
How worried do I need to be about mold, because there are no less than 11 blog posts littering my Facebook feed at any given moment about the dangers of mold growing in sippy cups?
The good news is that there is hope. More than hope, actually. There is a foolproof method to never losing another sippy cup again. And that method is to only let your child drink water from here on out.
A sippy cup full of water has never, ever been lost in the whole, long, sordid history of parenthood.