Growing up, I was the one out of all of my friends with a hyper-worried mom. Yeah, I was that kid who had to eat all-natural peanut butter sandwiches on 12-grain bread, be home straight after school, and had a seriously limited TV allowance out of her fear that it might melt my brain. My mom was a worrier: technology freaked her out, crimes that were listed on the news always felt too close to home, and nearly every colorful food that was not a fruit or a vegetable was a potential poison, in her mind.
The '90s were a particularly difficult time for parents because there was so much new territory to cover. They didn't have their own parents' examples to refer to when considering how to raise a kid who was growing up in a technologically booming world. Parents didn't know whether the changes were good for us or harming us, so they kept us on tight leashes — well, hyper-worried moms did, anyway.
Finally in my adult life, I found other kids who were under the supervision of a hyper-worried mom and we've had time to capitulate on the woes of being sheltered and meant to fear everything that sounds remotely fun or exciting. These are some of the things my mother worried about most in the '90s:
Did it cause radiation? Was it safe to stand near it? Did it infuse our frozen meals with technology waves that might one day make us sick or grow extra limbs? She didn't know, so she didn't like for me to use it, or stand near it. She'd rather wait hours for something to defrost at room temperature than put it in a microwave.
In her mind, there was no way that holding a mobile device that beamed information that close to my head was safe. She was sure that in a few years people would be reporting brain cancers and other head traumas. Conversations were kept short, just in case her suspicions were true. When possible, she always preferred we use a landline.
Back in the early days of the internet, stranger danger was at an all-time high. My mother was particularly concerned about who I was talking to online, what I was saying and whether or not they could see me and if they were predators. Basically everyone on the internet was a predator, according to a worried mom. Because of this, I had some major parental settings on my AOL account.
The hyper-worried mom doesn't worry whether or not any rain is acid rain, they worry that every drop of rain is filthy, particularly in big cities. If your mom believed that the rain was "acid," there was no way she was letting you go out and play around in it.
The Ozone Layer
The ozone layer is depleting! And in worried mom speak, that means mass amounts of sunscreen are necessary year round and typically sun should be avoided at all costs. There was this bizarre personification of the ozone layer, like it was leaking poison down to Earth. Graphics on the news didn't help to calm anyone's nerves, either. They always made it look so apocalyptic.
Sugar is the enemy! It makes kids hyper and gives them cavities! Two things that are a pain in the ass to deal with. My mother was a big fan of swapping out sugar for honey or juice, whenever possible. And sugar cereals? No chance. I couldn't even have those for dessert.
My mother was incredibly suspicious of foods that were bright and not vegetables or fruit. How could it not be poisonous? How could that possibly be good for you? Surely it would stain your insides and cause cancer later in life. Our home was a "natural coloring only" home.
No one knew what would actually happen on Y2K. But if you had a hyper-worried mom, she, like my mom, probably filled up the bathtub with water and bought out the local grocery store's emergency supplies and held her breath as the clock ticked towards midnight. She was very convinced that electricity would cease to exist and the world would implode. At least we'd have bath water ...
But hey, guys, we made it all the way to 2016! ... Not that our moms are worrying any less now than they are then.
Images: ABC, Giphy