1) This is such a familiar scene for so many parents: the adjusting of the braces. But you do something so special and unique here, I love it. How do you take a familiar moment like this and make it into something so different and new?
Whenever I’m doing something as strange as turning a metal device in the back of my child’s throat, my imagination soars. I think I often disconnect from my body in those moments and my mind wanders. What if I were making my child bigger or smaller when I turned this device? I began with this idea and the rest followed – backwards and forwards in time. Being a parent often feels like living in three different time periods at once – experiencing your child as a baby, the present, and looking forward to what’s to come.
2) There’s some darkness in this piece that, I think, also speaks to a lot of parents. That moment where the daughter is nearly hit by the car, when the parent admits to having these disruptive thoughts of injuring the child. Without these moments, the piece wouldn’t be quite as powerful as it is. Did you ever have any hesitation over including them?
To be honest, I’ve finally become comfortable writing about the darker side of parenting. I don’t think enough people are honest about this part. Of course we don’t want our children to get hurt, but when it’s really hard — emotionally and mentally — your mind wanders to imaginary places. But they’re just that: fantasies that you don’t want to really see fulfilled. I’m not proud of it, but didn’t Amy Hempel say that we should write about what makes us feel most ashamed?