Recipe for Disaster*


  • One (1) premature human infant
  • One (1) mother of poor health
  • One (1) father with a substance vice
  • Two (2) family histories of mental health issues and substance abuse
  • One (1) household semi-equipped for childrearing
  • Schooling scaled to life stage



  1. Remove premature human infant (PHI) from incubator. Take PHI home. Be sure to leave mother be. To rise, mother must be given adequate time to rest. Allow PHI to exist for one (1) month without mother. Intermittently introduce father, not too much at once, never too much, never allow PHI to be secure in father’s presence. Remove when any signs of comfort appear.
  2. After one (1) month, integrate mother. PHI needs constant change to develop. Exhaust all mother’s energy into PHI. Drain mother of everything, all substance and individuality, give to PHI. Discard mother for now.
  3. Introduce paternal grandmother to PHI. Keep mother and paternal grandmother separate at this stage: the two do not mix well. Add a dash of mother. Wait. Add a dash of paternal grandmother. Wait. Repeat. Allow mother to grow comfortable with paternal grandmother’s presence. Once this has occurred, set mother aside. Allow paternal grandmother to vigorously shake PHI. Let PHI be shaken until PHI begins to cry. Reintroduce mother, allow mother to reclaim PHI, calm PHI, flee with PHI.
  4. Add one (1) splash of father, not too much, never too much. Introduce fear of abandonment, a trait father is chock full of. Disclaimer: fear is an often overpowering ingredient. In this recipe, fear is a cornerstone. Season to your taste and then some. Do not hold back if desiring intended result.
  5. Allow time to rest as if nothing ever happened. Your one (1) premature human infant is now one (1) intellectually advanced toddler.


  1. Allow mother to leave intellectually advanced toddler (IAT) in highchair as she goes to the bathroom. The highchair should be positioned in the center of the kitchen, far enough from any counters that IAT should be incapable of reaching them. Should be is the imperative phrase here, as IAT, if recipe has been followed, will somehow get the highchair positioned much closer to the counter so that the toaster is within reach. Reintroduce mother as IAT takes apart toaster. Have mother issue the “stop” command, followed by a confused “put it back?” command. Allow mother to watch as IAT reconstructs toaster. Continue to step two if toaster works better than it had before.
  2. Have mother and father introduce IAT to friends and acquaintances. If recipe has been followed, IAT should startle said friends and acquaintances with speech patterns and vocabulary. Normal baby babble will appear to insult IAT; IAT will speak in full, complex sentences.
  3. Add a sense of mobility to the IAT, the more off-kilter the better. Fear will have distilled throughout the dish; mother and father should be well-seasoned by this point. IAT should be sheltered. Strap helmet to IAT upon the introduction of mobility to prevent external cranial injury.
  4. Render a period of time to pass where IAT feels secure. Introduce new child. If IAT is appalled, asks mother and father to “take it back,” proceed. Your one (1) intellectually advanced toddler is now one (1) socially inept child.


  1. Send socially inept child (SIC) to preschool. Mother and father should be concerned at SIC’s lack of care at being left with a strange teacher in a strange environment. Have teacher attempt to educate SIC and integrate SIC into the class. If SIC escapes the child-proof preschool to get to park and play on the swings alone when forced to interact with other children and teacher finds themself incapable of teaching SIC anything they don’t already know, remove SIC from preschool and proceed to step two.
  2. Allow SIC to read any book they get their hands on before being reintroduced to formal education. Father’s old college textbooks are fair game.
  3. As soon as correct age is reached, enroll SIC in kindergarten. SIC child will struggle with teachers and fellow students. Teachers, at this stage, should punish SIC for intellect. Fellow students should steal snacks of SIC. Combination of the two factors should stifle SIC’s interest in others further. Mother and father should remain oblivious.
  4. Introduce best friend who shields SIC from other students, only to remove them as grade changes from kindergarten to first. Reintroduce fellow students’ dislike of SIC. Once arm of SIC is broken by two fellow students, proceed to step five.
  5. Sibling, who was introduced in stage two step four, consists of similar ingredients with differing results. Allow sibling to socially thrive while being less intellectually inclined (by choice). Have SIC’s face be scarred as a result of sibling’s less intellectually inclined choices. The consequences of sibling’s actions should never fall on sibling’s shoulders, only on SIC’s shoulders.
  6. SIC should notice the crumbling of familial structure. This process should be kept on low temp on a backburner. Simmer do not allow to boil. Bubbling over now will only cause unintentional harm later. Harm caused later should be intentional. Meanwhile, reintroduce best friend. Your one (1) socially inept child is now one (1) semi-stable adolescent.


  1. Allow semi-stable adolescent (SSA) to grow comfortable. Best friend should remain a stable part of the SSA stage.
  2. Introduce puberty. This unavoidable ingredient shatters any stability that is had by any adolescent.
  3. Introduce sibling bond, which will be crucial in step four.
  4. Remove crumbling familial structure from backburner, move to power burner. Raise temp to high. Introduce idea of divorce without anyone saying the word, reduce stability, remove father from household without explanation, move mother, sibling, and SSA to house that father will never move into. Blend family. Allow SSA to shield sibling from this unsaid word and its results.
  5. Introduce crippling academic pressure, countless extracurriculars, and shifting social circles. Introduce depression, though allow it to go untreated. Introduce anxiety, though allow it to go untreated. Marinate in all of it. Your one (1) semi-stable adolescent is now one (1) mentally ill young adult.


  1. Increase all previously stated pressures to varying degrees depending on desired result. For best results, increase all to unbearable levels at the same time. Mentally ill young adult (MIYA) will, if all directions have been followed, remain standing and succeed externally.
  2. Allow MIYA to become accomplished varsity athlete, club president, team captain, one of the top ten students, etc. Allow MIYA to acquire one year's worth of college credits during high school. Allow MIYA to get a full ride to a great university. Allow MIYA to pretend they are happy about all of this.
  3. Send MIYA to university. Allow MIYA to continue to externally thrive. Allow MIYA to get an A- when an A was the desired result. Allow MIYA to access the roof of their eight-story apartment complex. Allow MIYA to approach the edge. Congratulations. Your one (1) mentally ill young adult is now one (1) full-fledged disaster. Well done.

*Results may vary. Substitutions may be made when preferential or need-based.
CHEYENNE LAROQUE is an MFA candidate studying fiction at the University of San Francisco. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Southern California where she double majored in creative writing and linguistics.