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Adjustment Parenting

Koji A. Dae is a queer American living long term in Bulgaria. She has work available through Short Edition, Alban Press, Tales from the Moonlit Path, and Luna Station Quarterly. When not writing, she cares for her two children, dances the blues, and hunts for second hand deals at local thrift stores. You can find out more about her on kojiadae.ink/
Behind the observation glass, James pinches Tanya. Her tender skin turns bright red. It'll turn into yet another bruise.
James watches his sister cry, I watch James, and the doctor watches me.
"Isn't it risky?" I don't take my eyes off James. With a son like him, constant close supervision becomes habit.
"A clean wipe is usually successful in kids. They haven't had time to form strong habits, and we can always revert to his current scan if problems arise." The doctor's low voice is meant to be reassuring, but it cracks with a hint of anticipation. I don't blame him. It's a new procedure. Doctors must geek out over this kind of thing.
Tanya wails as a nurse pulls James away. I can't tell if she's in pain or upset that she's being separated from her big brother. Bruises, cuts, even broken bones: no matter what he does to her, she adores him.
"He'll keep his memories?"
"Only the personality changes," the doctor assures me. His leg jiggles like the tail of an excited puppy.
Grinning, James kicks the nurse. She curses under her breath and casts a too-familiar glare at the observation window. He laughs--that beautiful, pure laugh only children have.
I want to love that laughter.
"Do it."
It's an outpatient procedure and the effects are immediate. When we return from the hospital James picks up his toys, plays carefully with Tanya, and eats his peas without complaining. He tickles his sister until they collapse in giggles. His laughter still makes me wince.
At night, he falls asleep without struggle--the little boy any parent would beg for. I kiss his angelic forehead, creep into my bed, and cradle the hard drive of my real son.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 14th, 2020


When my five-year-old son's neurologist suggested putting him on diazepam for his night terrors, I was afraid his personality would change. This story was born out of that fear. Protecting a child's blossoming personality while keeping them physically safe is something no one can fully prepare for until they face these choices, and I wanted to showcase that difficulty.

- Koji A. Dae
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