My Child, The Sociopath

Yesterday, Jack tripped over his wagon and said “Shit.” It sounded more like “sit” with a lispy “s,” but G. and I both knew what he intended. We looked at each other reproachfully. “I blame you somehow,” he teased.

I know it isn’t a big deal—kids experiment by parroting whatever they hear—but it’s still disconcerting to hear something unseemly come from that sweet, innocent mouth. In my son, I now have a little mirror, and sometimes, I don’t like what I see (or hear). His bad behavior reinforces my fears that I’ve passed on everything genetically undesirable and that Jack will one day be known as “a bad seed.” Add to this my mommy guilt—my fear of having success in any of my pursuits at the expense of being a good mother—and my thoughts spin out of control. Even before I got my latest rejection, I panicked thinking of the conversation between Jack’s future teachers:

Teacher #1: Jack G—- bit someone today at recess.

Teacher #2: I’m not surprised. That kid has been off the rails lately.

T1: Well, you know why.

T2: No, why?

T1: You’ve never met his parents? His mom’s an author and she’s always away on book tours and in New York doing fancy writer things.

T2: Hmph. Well, that explains it. He obviously doesn’t get enough attention at home.

T1: She’s so wrapped up in her own life that she doesn’t even teach her kid basic things, like not to bite. It’s scandalous.

T2: It certainly is. I don’t know how people like that become parents.

T1: Me neither! I mean, that book she wrote has a lot of penises in it.

T2: No child should be exposed to that.

T1: Well, it’s clear that Jack G—-’s mother is morally bankrupt and has failed at motherhood.

T2: Abundantly clear. I guess his is one of those names we’ll see in the paper one day for criminal activity.

T1: It’s too bad. He’s such a cute kid.

T2: He probably gets that from the father.

Sometimes, when I see his devilish little smile as he backs away from me to avoid a diaper change, or when he makes a beeline for a handful of cat, I worry. I worry that he laughs when someone says “Ouch!” Am I raising a little sadist? Is he taking pleasure in other people’s pain already?

“It’s normal,” my friend at work told me. “They’re too little to understand what hurts. They’re just laughing at the reaction.” This made sense to me, but I still broached the topic with G. just to make sure we were in agreement.

“God, I hope he’s not gonna be a serial killer. What would we do? Put him in a institution?”

“Don’t worry about it,” G. answered. “If we see he has the desire to kill, we’ll channel his tendencies. Like Dexter.”

Thinking of my son as an attractive, relatively well-adjusted sociopath, as opposed to an unkempt, poorly-adjusted one, pacified me a bit.

Dexter has really taken the stigma out of being a serial killer.

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