In my almost 40 years of life, I have watched movies of all kinds. I have seen every genre, I have sat through the best and the worst that Hollywood has had to offer. But in all that time and all of those movies there has been no genre that has captured my interest and delight more than horror films.
Everything from Frankenstein to the Tall Man, Pinhead, Pumpkinhead, Aliens, and Exorcists, chainsaw massacres, killer sharks, piranhas, birds, bats, zombies, vampires, creatures from Lagoons, blobs, body snatchers, possessed houses, possessed people, possessed orange haired dolls, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, gremlins, mutants, werewolves, cannibals, and Lepruchans, I have seen them all and more than likely have stayed up too late in order to finish watching them on TV.
Besides the obvious fright these movies are intended to lay on us, horror movies have taught me a thing or two, not just about life, but about parenting. Horror movies play on our base emotion of fear and what is more fear inducing than parenting? I know what you’re saying, “Yeah Jimmy, we learned how to unlock the Lament Configuration and unleash the Cenobites on to Gladys in Receiving from horror movies but what does that have to do with parenting?” I’m glad you asked.
You would be surprised what nuggets of wisdom you can pick up from half naked co-eds getting slashed, unsuspecting travelers getting hacked to pieces, and ghostly possessions. So in the spirit of the Halloween season, here are the 7 things horror movies can teach parents. Because the pool of blood is too deep to choose from, I decided on using quotes from what I consider to be the Big 3 of horror movies in American pop culture, Halloween, Friday, the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street (and only using quotes from the original releases).
The three of these movie franchises take 3 out of the Top 5 Highest Grossing horror franchises in America (Friday the 13th #1, Nightmare on Elm Street #2, Halloween #4). Combined, they have spawned 24 sequels, 3 remakes, 1 sequel remake, and 1 original movie (Freddy vs Jason). They have given us TV shows, books, comics, merchandising, and, with all due respect to Martin Brodeur, the most recognizable person to ever wear a hockey goalie mask.
So without further ado, the 7 Things Horror Movies can Teach Parents.
‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)
Marge: “Nancy, you are going to get some sleep tonight if it kills me.” Many a parent has felt Nancy Thompson’s mom’s plight and more than likely uttered these very same words to their kids. Granted Marge had no idea the guy she killed years before was invading her daughter’s nightmares trying to kill her but had she known, if Marge could get a decent night sleep, I’m willing to bet she wouldn’t have acted any differently. For the past 11 years, I could count on 1 hand how many times my children have gone to sleep without giving me any issues be it a simple fling of their heads in disgust to an all out tantrum. Like every other parent, bedtime usually is a worse nightmare than your actual dreams, but you’re the parent and some how some way you need to get your little dream warriors off to bed because if you don’t, you’ll be so tired, you’ll welcome Freddy with open arms.
Glen Lantz: “We have reason to believe there may be something very strange going on.”Indeed we do Glen. Every parent knows those moments that come, usually out of nowhere, when one minute everything is fine and the next you have a feeling in your gut (like the right hand of a clawed maniac). It is a mix of butterflies and nausea signifying to your parental senses your children are doing something they should not be doing. Glen knew something strange was going on but wasn’t ready to accept the idea of someone trying to kill him through his dreams. Parents, you knew something was amiss and you reacted. The key for any parent is to react soon enough. Hesitation or ignoring that feeling of something strange going on will only get you standing in an inch of water in your bathroom trying to wrench out the Pillow Pet your kids just flushed down the toilet.
‘Friday the 13th‘ (1980)
Crazy Ralph: “You’ll never come back again.” I think my mom told me something very similar to this when my wife and I got home with our first daughter? Life as you know it (without kids free to do whatever it is you want whenever you want) is over. All of a sudden you are responsible for a new life. One that will wake you up in the middle of the night, spit up on you, poop on you, pee on you, eat things off of the floor, and try to navigate up the stairs before they can walk in a straight line. On top of eating your dinner cold, suffering from exhaustion, and flipping a coin to see which one of you changes the next diaper, your kids will never stop needing you, ever. Sure Crazy Ralph was crazy, a little bug eyed and was talking about camp counselors driving to their doom but his point holds a large bucket of Camp Crystal Lake water for parents too. Once you take that plunge to be a parent, you, as you know you, will never come back again.
Pamela Vorhees: “Jason should’ve been watched. Every minute. He was – he wasn’t a very good swimmer.” Of course he should have been watched Mrs. Vorhees because he was a kid and its our job as parents to watch our kids. Yet it is a fine line between watching and hovering over our kids. It is our job to recognize when our kids need space and freedom (even in a limited capacity). That space and freedom we allow will only help them develop their identities and a self-reliance which will serve them well as they continue to grow. But it is also our job to temper that freedom we hand out with the ability to recognize when our kids need to be guarded over with a more watchful eye no horny camp counselors could or would provide.
Dr. Sam Loomis: “I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding…”Have you ever tried to reason with a toddler who skipped their nap? Ever attempted to reason with a teenager in the middle of a hormone filled breakdown because the jeans you bought her were from Walmart and not Hollister? Have you heard your child answer your ‘Why would you do that?’ question with, ‘Because I wanted to.’? How about trying to understand why your little angel thought it would be a good idea to use the blue Crayola marker as eyeliner on picture day at school? You have and you most likely failed because with kids, much like the knife wielding Michael Myers, there is no reasoning, conscience, or understanding with kids (or as we have found out, him). The best you can do is hope a shred of what you tell them sinks in. That blue marker takes a long time to wash off, no one can see the tag on your jeans if you cut it off, ‘Because I wanted to’ doesn’t work until they start paying the mortgage, and without naps we all suffer. Until that time when it seems like they are starting to get it, all you can do is shake your head in disbelief and if you live in Haddonfield, lock your front doors.
Dr. Sam Loomis: “Ever done anything like this before?” There will be times when stopping the murderous rampage of a guy who can take a wire hanger to the eye and shrug off 6 bullets from a .38 will seem easier than being a parent. Every day you are going to be challenged. Every day will be a new set of scenarios you never thought you would ever find yourself in. Issues, emotions, and events will arise that were unfathomable to you before anyone called you Mom or Dad. And when those things happen, you’ll be asking yourself exactly what Dr. Loomis asked and your answer will be the same, ‘no’…because you haven’t. As you will find out, if you haven’t found out already (not to worry, it takes all of about 3 weeks to figure it out), parenting is like nothing you have ever done before. Ever.
Laurie: “There’s nothing to be scared of.” Easy for Laurie to say, she was only being chased down by a knife carrying mute in a William Shatner mask. Try wearing your Sunday best while being chased down by tiny people with chocolate on their hands who keep calling out your name because they want a hug. At first glance, parenting can be frightening. For the first 3 weeks of my oldest daughter’s life, I made anyone who came in contact with her to dowse themselves with a pint of Germ-X because I was scared she was going to contract the Ebola virus. My wife worried our daughter would choke herself in her crib so our darling daughter went without a pillow and blanket in her crib for 2 years. As parents, it is our natural inclination to be scared because we think we are keeping our children safe but the truth is, there is nothing to be scared of. Once you are able to overcome your initial fear, you’ll learn your kids will get sick, skin their knees, get black and blue, mess up, fail, and fall down but that’s why we’re here. To sit with them, console them, cry with them, hug them, kiss away the hurt, laugh away the pain, and dry their eyes because in the end, the most important thing you need to do is be there for your kids. If you do that, then just like the maniacs in the movies, no matter what has knocked your kids down, they will be able to get back up from.