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art by Melissa Mead

Modification or Mutation: 8 Ways a Parent Can Be Sure

Marissa Lingen is a freelance writer living in the Minneapolis suburbs with two large men and one small dog. She plays the piano, makes a mean dark chocolate mousse, and is probably too emotionally attached to having lakes and trees around.
As a responsible parent, you've chosen only a safe, beneficial slate of genetic modifications for your children. But once they go away to school, they face a bewildering variety of changes in their friends and classmates. How will you know which of their peers are acceptable for them to have visiting your home? Here are eight ways for you to help them tell a safe modification from a dangerous mutation.
1. Get to know the parents. Your children's friends' parents are your best source of information, even if they don't realize it. Do they brag about little Lindy or seem unusually invested in Stevie's accomplishments? It's exactly that sort of parent who will cross the line when it's time to make selections at the genebank. Does their background seem a lot different from the other parents in your area? There may be a reason why something seems off to you. Trust your instincts!
2. Host parties and get-togethers at your house. If the kids are under your watchful eye, you'll be able to spot the symptoms of over-mutation. When the kids play hide-and-go-seek, does one of them always find the others? Check her eyes for pigmentation mutations. Does one little boy seem to bend oddly when he reaches for the chips? A friendly parental hand on his spine will let you know if he's been modified for flexibility. Do those sisters who always come over to play together always seem to know what the other one is thinking before they say it? It may not be just a close family at work, but a dangerous mutation!
3. Serve strawberries. Five out of the nine most common mutations are correlated with a strawberry allergy. Sure, your daughter's best chum could have just gotten unlucky--but do you want her to be friends with that kind of freak anyway? A responsible parent corrects for ordinary allergies anyway! Better safe than sorry! Shortcakes all around!
4. A day at the beach. Bathing suits will display some of the most egregious mutations available on the market, and frolicking in the water will show even more of them. Webbing and gills may sound like a good idea to the na´ve parent, but they take a child squarely outside the mainstream of human modification. An outing to a nearby ocean or large lake should let you know for sure. (Note: in some regions of Scotland, SelkieModTM is registered as a normal local variant. This is one of their quaint ethnic customs and should not be looked down on by those of us from less tribal localities, hard though it may be to overlook such a shocking breach of good taste.)
5. Hostility to your child's normal modifications. Naturally everyone who can afford it will be modified for speed, strength, and flexibility within normal ranges. After all, what's money for? If your child has a classmate who seems frustrated or upset that you have provided them these advantages, it may be that this child's parents squandered their money on more foolish genetic choices. Don't take religion for an answer! All the mainstream religious leaders are safely modified these days. Anyone who's hostile to your child's normal modifications has something to hide.
6. Nature made cuteness for a reason. Ever wonder why scorpions and poisonous spiders are so hideous and scary to normal people? It's because they're dangerous! In the days before modifications, it was difficult to get people to work as entomologists, because normal people simply don't want to. Well, nature has not betrayed us. Is one of your child's friends lumpy, weird-nosed, or just plain funny-looking? That's the one to keep an eye on! Normal people modify their children to be cute. It's the human preference.
7. Special connections with plants or animals. In the original human genetic code, we were separate from the rest of the plant and animal kingdoms, as nature intended. If Fido seems to follow and adore your child's new friend--or snarl at him with raised hackles--that's a sign something is not as it should be. Fewer mutants are so blatant as to affect plants in a way that you can observe, but look at the ferns after little Bobby leaves! Are they perky and greener? A wary parent is a safe parent!
8. Watch for overcompensation. Everyone knows the old "throw a vase at your child's friend's head to see if she uses her super-fast reflexes to catch it" trick--even the parents of mutants. That "clumsy" girl may have let you give her that black eye just to throw you off the trail and put you on the defensive. Don't let her get away with it! Other adults may be brainwashed to think of you as the bad guy in this situation, but you know that you are merely a vigilant and concerned parent. Your conscience is clear.
Remember, you are your child's first and last line of defense against the bad influence of overmodified playmates! If you suspect a dangerous mutation, report it to your local parent group or to the government's new Mod-Stopper Branch.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011


I first encountered parenting magazines when I was writing a character who had no idea how to deal with her teenage son. I found most of them hilariously awful--patronizing, obvious, and counterproductive in one small package!--so I couldn't resist writing this piece for the future of that genre.

- Marissa Kristine Lingen

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