Zombies' Guide to Coping with Small Humans
Zombie Guides: Volume 3
Kids are brilliant, aren't they? Oh, they say the most adorable things. Aw...look, a baby. My wife says things like 'aw' about a baby, or a baby grow, or a flower, or a nice bit of Tupperware™. Women seem to be brilliant at saying 'aw'. I'm not. It hurts. I like beer more than kids. Honestly. I've got three children and people say you always have a favourite and it's true. My favourite is beer.
Babies look pretty much the same and on the inside 99% of their ingredients are identical. Sure, some might have some rare condition where all their organs are on the other side or something, but they're humans, only smaller. They might not seem it, but they are (I mean the human part, of course - the 'smaller' part should be evident).
But if you do the parenting thing to the best of you ability, those small humans get older. They toilet themselves, buy their own drugs, and go out for cider in the park more often so you can have a sex life again with your partner even though at that point you're both likely to look haggard and probably just want to watch Scott and Bailey on the TV.
Eventually, through patience and perseverance, they'll leave home.
What the hell do I know? I write stories, so I'm a stay at home dad - the dad bit's the first job, the writing's a byline. But every person is different and every child is different (after all, they're people, too). Sure, they pick up some stuff from parents, but some of a child's traits, abilities, activities, tastes and everything else is simply genetic. There is nothing you can do to change this. They're still small, and I'm big, and it's my job to look after them. That's the tough thing about parenting, I think. I'm responsible. I brought them into the world. They'll probably see me out, but that's in the 'Zombies' Guide to Dying' (possibly).
Everything everyone ever told me about parenthood was a lie. So, this isn't about children at all. This is a guide on how to survive until that glorious day comes when you can send them out of the house legally, and hopefully avoid a breakdown before then.
Google, YouTube, and a Library.
Google and YouTube are for you. The library is for them.
After that, it's Calpol, a first aid kit, arts and crafts, the outdoors. I've found the kids are much more amenable when I spend time with them rather than chucking them at the television or iPad. It's a simply thing, but the only thing kids really cost in entertainment is your time.
And calm minds prevail. You, not them. Try meditation and medication - the Holy M's.*
*That's not a real thing.
These are also for you. Parents need a way to blow off steam. Kids are perfectly capable of finding their own money for alcohol and drugs. You don't need to worry about this. This is not in your remit.
Painkillers are helpful - I find a combination of ibuprofen and paracetamol work a treat on hangovers.
Cocaine is useful when you're playing hide and seek and you're flagging because you're overweight from beer, and out of breath from cigarettes. A good pick-me-up, and also ace poured over open wounds to slow and eventually stop bleeding.
Morphine is good for a mellow high, and it's many derivatives (all the 'Pams') are great for knocking both you and the children out.*
FIGURE 3: Diazepamela.
*I'm not, of course, advocating drugging your children. This is entirely your responsibility, and you can find the local dealer in the park with your older offspring.
You are not allowed to lobotomise your child like 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest'. You might want to, but you'd really be wasting the opportunity to enjoy them when they leave home.
You are not allowed to brainwash your children like 'Clockwork Orange'. Childhood behaviour (same as adult behaviour) is a constant learning process. Unlike adults, however, you will never figure out what works with a child because they're growing. Growing is rather like evolving. Just when you've got it figured out, they change and you're left in the dirt, looking up, wondering how in the hell they got the drop on you yet again.
How do you talk to your kids about the hardest things? Sex, death, mean people, bullies, tax, drugs...all these things are difficult to explain to your children, and sometimes uncomfortable for a parent to speak about. Hard to get it right, and I wonder if many get it spot on. But how do you tell your children about the hardest thing of all? Politics.
Analogies work, sometimes. This is want I want to say:
Dad: People say the freedom to vote is a double-edged sword, boys, but it's not. Not really. Imagine, instead, that the public...
Dad: People, boys. Human people, people of a nation.
Children: But aren't we all people?
Dad: Yes, well...but we're our people, so we don't have to worry about all the 'other' people. The Government tells us this over and over again - 'the other people aren't our problem'. But we don't listen. We think they mean not our countries' people, but the lesson is that anyone who is not you doesn't matter.
Children: Dad, are you rambling a bit? What about politics?
Dad: Oh, yes. Right. Politics. OK...remember the talk we had about sex shows in Amsterdam? Uh-huh. Well, imagine the public - people - are in the sex show. The Government, which is vast beyond comprehension, an uncaring void which encompasses the police, media, the bin men, VAT, taxation, what we see on the news, what we are permitted to watch on national television, where we walk on a pavement shared by people with bicycles who think they will save this world with a bike...
Children: Dad, are you a Nihilist?
Dad: So, this vast machine isn't a sword, right? It's like a double-ended dildo. We're the public, life is a sex show, and politics is that dildo. Supposed to please everyone, but like that Brian Yuzna film we watched, 'Society', our faces are all full of horror. We're on roofies (remember that talk?) and we don't want to be there. But we can't get out. It's too big. The dildo has become the master. We're strung out, jonesing, seeing shit like in Burrough's Naked Lunch...
Anyway. I don't want to have that conversation with the children. All the other stuff? We'll cover it when and if it comes up. Just not that. Some things are just too dark for children, some images too awful.
Any Other Conversations
One thing I've learned that helps me with younger children is to try to keep it simple. Clear, Concise, Consistent.
When they're eating, for example, don't say, 'Oh, that's beef. It comes from cows. They shot it in the head with a bolt, then chopped in up a bit and drained it's blood and inside crap into a huge trough. Trixy's eating those bits, look. Well, after the butcher sawed through a bit of bone...'
Don't do that. Remember this at mealtimes: 'It's chicken.'
That is the correct answer to all childhood dinner questions. Any difficult conversations can be made easier with this simple trick.
'What is this?'
See? This also applies to tampons, panty liners, vibrators, waxing strips and Daddy's porno collection.
'Where do babies come from?'
'Is that chocolate?'
I've just thought up a really stupid piece of doggerel to cover this so I don't have to spend the next five pages on child psychology.
You can't change your child's nature, you can only nurture it.
I haven't really thought that through, but it sounds reasonably sensible. I think. Ah well...moving on.
Anything you don't really understand qualifies as 'challenging', doesn't it? I think this is a matter of degrees. If you're baby just sacrificed the babysitter to the Goat Lord, you probably have a problem. Otherwise, tantrums, surliness, sulking, refusing to eat corn, picking their nose in public...I think this is just normal stuff. It'll pass, and either way, at some point, peer pressure and other influences will muck up all your hard work. Some of it will be good - they'll stop picking their nose because all their friends tell them it's gross. Other influences won't be cool - like that friend they have that leads them astray and is a BAD INFLUENCE. But good influences, bad ones - it's those things that make them...and those things which made us.
People can be buggers. There are plenty of them around here, in the town where I live; miserable gits, making others' lives miserable. But that's not all we're about. Sometimes, people kind of elevate themselves above all the shit and make something beautiful.
Silly films, silly books, silly music. Things that make people feel better, rather than feel worse. Vonnegut, for example, always made me feel better, by shining a light on the darker aspects of the human soul and pointing out just how fucking ridiculous we are.
Others, too, pick up the happy ball and run with it. I watched Paul (Pegg and Frost and the sweary alien) and got to thinking of the lofty ideals and possibilities of being in a position where people read/listen/watch your innnermost thoughts...and the power you have. As a writer? Yes, you have a modicum of influence on people. You don't tell people what to think, though, or how to be a human being. You might give people an idea. An ethos, or a mythos, by which to live.
I don't think an author should censor themselves. Words can move people. Words, stories, ideas, can move people to want to be better, to strive for more. V for Vendetta, in a way, moved me. Moore's on my list of cool dudes, for sure.
Should we, as parents, censor it?
Sure. Informed choice. But at some point, aren't we teaching them to censor their own viewing, their own reading? Growing up is, I think, partly seeing and hearing things we wish we hadn't...so that we know we don't want to experience that again.
People are hurting, all over the world. I think my point is this: Yes, I'm a horror writer, by and large, and much of the stuff out there isn't for kids. No way do I think five year olds should be playing 'GTA'. But fiction and entertainment, even the darker stuff, isn't just about darkness, or violence, or hate.
I wouldn't let my little ones read what I write. I wouldn't want them to do the bad things. But that's why we need villains just as much as we need heroes, darkness just as much as the light, because without each other they don't mean anything at all.
Seeing Hellraiser as a youngster never once made me want to invite Pinhead for tea. Maybe because my parents didn't censor my viewing. I think they taught me right from wrong so I could learn to do it for myself.
BRUSH. YOUR. TEETH.
Reader's Digest, me. Well then, back to pictures and stupid stuff? Sure.
Lego is the most dangerous object in any household. When you see that statistic that says 90% of accidents happen in the house? It's Lego.
Lego in the nose. This is a common problem. Hold one nostril closed, and blow into the child's mouth. This will blow the Lego clear. This will happen.
Stepping on Lego is worse than stepping on a shark. Wear clogs. Lego in the sink; the house floods, you need to move. That sickly plastic burning smell? Lego in the toaster.
Although, seriously...Lego is ace. Buy Lego.
A calm tone of voice. 'Get up.' Plasters, frozen peas, magic ice cream.
Anything outside of that, shit yourself, call someone who can deal with it.
Kids fall out of trees - this is normal. Kids aren't supposed to only know the pain of a callous from their Play Station. How are they going to learn the value of life if all their experience comes from a quick save and a reload?*
* I'm not referring to guns. Bullets are not good teachers.
Kids are basically magic, but it's a limited magic. They can cast glamours like the changelings of Nordic folklore in order to fool you into thinking they're cute. They can befuddle a mind with nonsense. They can disappear at will. They're illusionists with skills far beyond those of the greatest Las Vegas magician.
But they're also Dirty Harry, and SAW, and Chucky, too.
If you hear a child's laughter and you haven't got kids, you should be afraid.
If you hear nothing, and you've got kids, you should be terrified...because it is at this point that the kids are finding or losing things.
If you have anything that could be a weapon, this is when your children will find it. Weapons are not restricted to guns and swords and nunchucks and shuriken and ninjato swords. In a small child's hands, anything is a weapon. They are assassins. They lose most of these innate skills, like mild telepathy and disappearing at will, when they hit puberty. Until then, try to keep all of the following out of their reach:
Pencils, scissors, glue, spray cans, cleaning products, water, tables, chairs, anything at all which breaks into sharp pieces, cooking utensils, fire (this includes chemical and alchemical ingredients which, combined, can prove combustible...they will do science), how to guides on the internet, contact with naughty aunts/uncles/grandparents/cousins or any who can give them ideas as to how to kill you and dispose of your body, peanuts, olive oil, jars, vegetable racks, forklift trucks, marbles, caravans, shotguns, nuclear weapon codes, your iPhone, and most of all Lego.
Children, small ones, are able to find anything. If you've lost your keys and you have a baby, it's because they've already found them, which leads to the next point - they are able to hide anything. Your keys are gone. Face it.
Children, larger ones, are unable to find anything. This is just the way it is.
But, if you've a body you want to bury, toddlers are your Huckleberry.
Yes, yes, I know. But really, you don't, do you? They're not essential, or an accessory, or a quick fix for a broken relationship. If you already have them, that's kind of your fault. You own it. It's your responsibility because you're an adult. Having kids on purpose when you don't want kids? That's seems a little bit daft.
Go have fun instead.
People who say, 'Oh, you decided to not have children?' with that weird sympathetic quizzical Forrest Gump face on? They only say that because they're jealous that they can't smoke pot in the house at 10am.
In conclusion? Babies and small children are basically trying to kill themselves, other people, or you. They are constantly in some kind of state which psychologists end in '...cidal'.
You will not get any gratitude for saving their lives until they leave home. The bottom line is: try not to break them and get your retirement package for a job well done: Grandchildren.