When I was young, after school the kids in my neighborhood would meet outside in the street and we’d play. Every day. Except for that most important time of the year, the most essential annual event in kid-dom outside of Christmas and Easter. I’m talking about Monster Week!
For one week, Channel 11 in New York would play monster movies. And for that week, the children of New York would be absent from the streets. Nary a sound was heard from playgrounds. Homework assignments were ignored. We’d all be inside reveling in the horrors of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. (I’ve always wondered who would win in a race, the Mummy or the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Both moved pretty slowly.)
My childhood was informed by these monsters. When I went down to the basement or took the garbage out at night, those were the monsters my fearful brain conjured up. And to be honest, it didn’t end when I became an adult. In fact, my views on parenting also have been informed by monster movies. I think as parents we become each of the movie monsters we feared as children.
When I was young and single, I was King Kong, the king of all monsters. Nobody messed with Kong. Nobody. Until … I fell in love. And then … down goes Kong.
I’m sure you can relate. “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” I’m sure this path happened similarly for many of you. Let’s outline the monster movie timeline of parenting.
Birth of baby: You are The Fly.
You are an unsuspecting victim who dabbled with powers far beyond your comprehension, and changes have come upon you unbidden. You’re not yourself anymore. You don’t know what you are. But it’s not pretty. You don’t sleep. You’re climbing the walls. You’re erratic. Jumpy. Bags under your eyes. You’re unkempt. You remember being like other humans, but your past life seems … very, very far away.
Baby 3 to 6 months: You are a vampire.
You’ve been cursed to walk the night, and it seems this may go on for eternity. As a nocturnal creature with bloodshot eyes, you frighten all who come in contact with you. As the sun rises, you curse it and only wish for the ever elusive joy of sleep … peaceful sleep.
Baby 6 to 9 months: You are Frankenstein.
Mornings find you as a near brainless, groaning, grumpy creature with a mean streak. You plod around your castle like the living dead. You yourself don’t know if you’re more dead than alive. Your visage is offensive to all. You long for your spouse. You know she’s here somewhere, but you don’t see each other very often.
One year: You are a ghost.
To everyone who knew you pre-baby, you have disappeared. Nobody ever sees the ghost you have become, and they even start suspecting you don’t exist at all. They hardly mention your name anymore, except in an old story and always followed by a touch of sadness or a question of “Hey, whatever happened to that guy?” And when you do show up among old friends, they scream, gasp, and question you. You begin to feel unconnected to them and slowly begin fading away … forever.
1 to 2 years: You are Quasimodo.
You walk around the house hunched over, trying to protect your child who is either learning to walk or intent on ramming into every corner with their head. Within no time at all, you’re permanently deformed as a crouched and humped figure. (This is especially bad for the first child and almost nonexistent by the fifth, when you say things like, “Hey, how else will she learn not to walk into walls?”)
2 to 4 years: You are Jekyll and Hyde.
You have a split personality. You are the authoritarian figure of a lunatic asylum at home and somehow you’re not supposed to instinctively tell people to drink all of their beverage at business lunches. You start telling random people to say “please” and “thank you” or to say grace before eating.
5 to 12 years: You are the Wicked Witch of the West.
You are the scourge of your young girl who seeks only to escape your clutches. You pester her and chase after her, but all she wants to do is hang out with her friends who have weird names like Scarecrow and Tin Man. You are surrounded by monkeys who fly around crazily, and no matter how many times you give them jobs to do, they just mess things up.
12 to 15 years: You are HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
You’re trying to patiently and logically explain everything you do to uncooperative and out-of-control humans. These humans, who once thought you were great, now can’t stand the sound of your voice, think you’re crazy, and do everything they can to shut you off.
15 to 18 years: You are the Invisible Man.
Nobody sees you. You can do and say whatever you want; it doesn’t matter. Nobody can see you. You are a nonentity.
18 years: You are Annie Wilkes from Misery.
The person you love is trying to leave you. Oh no, Mr. Man. We won’t be having any of that. You’re staying right here. Don’t even think about getting in that cockadoodie car and leaving. I go out of my way for you year after year! I do everything to try and make you happy. I feed you, I clean you, I dress you, and what thanks do I get? You think you can just leave now?
25 years: You are the Mummy.
You wander around oh-so-slowly, causing mayhem and destruction until you are placed back in your tomb.