Every now and then I feel moved to offer advice in situations where children are involved. I personally don’t have any children, but my own memories as a child occasionally provide insight as to why a particular course of action may or may not be a good idea.
For example, I once told a co-worker that her boyfriend-of-one-month’s reluctance to introduce her to his daughter probably was not a sign that he was ashamed of her. Rather, he might want to make sure their relationship was serious before bringing her into his daughter’s life.
My experience? As a child of divorced parents, I remember meeting several of my father’s girlfriends and really, really liking them, only to be crushed when they broke up a few weeks later.
So, here I am to offer some advice about raising children, based on my personal experience as a child:
Don’t force your very small child to watch a movie that’s obviously scaring the shit of them. Otherwise, your child will grow up to blame you for their bad subculture choices.
And now for my experience, just so you know I’m not talking out of my ass.
To start, let me just say that I love my mother, and at the end of the day, she was a pretty good parent. However, her one major screw-up resulted in me wasting my high school years as a Goth.
When I was a wee lass, my brother visited a friend who lived about an hour’s drive away from our home. Because he lived so far away that they couldn’t hang out more often, the plan was that my mother would pick my brother up late that night. Which meant I had to go with her, because no sane parent would leave their child alone for hours, and my mother was a sane parent (or so I thought). As a result, I got to stay up past my bedtime, since my mother rationalized that it would be easier to let me sleep in the car than putting me to bed, then waking me back up.
Also that night was the television premier of Aliens. My brother, being a stereotypical pre-teen male, really wanted to see it, but, as I said before, he was at a friend’s. That’s no problem in our house, though, because our mother is a SF-Fantasy junkie. (Seriously. She went to see X-Men all by herself not because she was even remotely familiar with the comic books, but because she heard the words “mutants,” “super-powers” and “Patrick Stewart” used in the same sentence). So, my mother decides to tape Aliens for my brother, and then sits down to watch it herself.
About two hours later, I’m that special kind of loopy that only comes from being really, really tired. Light-headed, cranky, maybe a little spaced out. I especially remember feeling that the hallucinations package was an option my brain was considering for the rock-bottom price of consuming another hundred calories of sugar.
Meanwhile, I was also pretty bored. So, I went to check out what my mother was doing.
My mother was in our finished basement with all the lights turned out, sitting—I shit you not—six inches away from the television. It was the scene where the camera focused on the alien queen, her mouth opens, the little tongue comes out and another mouth opens, all complete with slime dripping off every available surface.
This was the most disgusting thing I’d seen in my short life. So much so that I was convinced I was going to puke. I went to run into the laundry room to hurl in the sink, when my mother—without even looking at me—grabs my wrist and jerks me back to her side.
“No, watch it with me,” she whispered in a voice reminiscent of the demon in The Exorcist, her eyes bright with glee from the mayhem on the screen.
In that instant, my beloved mother became about a thousand times more scary than the film itself, the last fifteen minutes of which I was forced to watch, à la Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
Fast-forward about ten years. I am now a teenage Goth, full of piss and vinegar, convinced that I am where Humanity went wrong.
A friend and I decided the best way to freak out the Squares was to wander into the local Sharper Image (also, this was when the Sharper Image carried cool stuff, like little Porsche go-karts, instead of just the Ionic Air Purifiers and “personal massagers”). In the entryway was a life-sized statue of Giger’s Xenomorph, and that’s when it all came flooding back.
The Queen’s little tongue-mouth. Bishop ripped in half, snot-colored android guts spilling out of his torso. My mother’s Regan MacNeil impression.
And that’s when I realized I had been so mentally scarred that my brain and repressed the memory of a goddamn B-grade horror movie.
Meanwhile, I had coped with the trauma by turning myself into a pathetic little wanna-be vampire who really didn’t like herself all that much. I thought it was hormones, and I would just grow out of it like everyone promised, but no, my mother had done this to me.
My obsession with death and black lipstick and leather collars with spikes was all my mother’s fault.
As soon as I went home, I marched up to my mother and laid the accusation. How could she do that to me, her little baby girl?
“Well, I was scared.”