Trevor Soderstrum: Scarier Than Psycho
If you are very lucky in this life, a nurse or doctor will place a bundle in your arms that changes everything. Until that moment, you will think you understand love. As you stare at those beautiful eyes, nose, and fingers and toes, he or she will sightly move and you realize you didn’t have the foggiest clue what true love really is.
Other children have come into this world before, but there has never been one like yours. You cannot describe the tidal wave of emotion that overwhelms you. You know you will never have another carefree moment in your life and that is wonderful. This love you feel at that moment allows the entire universe to make sense. You would throw yourself in front of a speeding automobile for this helpless child.
You will never feel so strong or so weak again. The rest of the world disappears. It is just you and this child, this lovely child. A small voice in the back of your mind will wonder, “How will I screw this kid up?”
Parenting is an art, not a science. You are a novice way over your head and pay grade. There is no rule book or instruction manual. It is a dance where feet are constantly getting stepped on as you try to keep in step with the music. What works well with one child might be a complete failure with another. It is not whether you are going to make a mistake, but rather how many hundreds you will make almost every day. Thankfully, life is very forgiving.
There are good ways to screw up a kid and bad ways. I have passed on my love for Star Wars and Star Trek to the 11-year-old. We have watched every incarnation of Star Trek together. I have conned her into believing that William Shatner’s birthday is a national holiday. She dressed as Rey, complete with a lightsaber, last Halloween and has secretly confided to me that her mother wants an animatronic baby Yoda for her birthday next month, even if her mother claims she has no idea who “baby Yogurt” is.
Coupled with her love of reading, I have her on a firm path towards nerdom. If I can just get her interested in comic books, Jimmy Buffett music, and Three Stooges shorts, when she is a teenager, no boy will go near her. This is good screwing up in my opinion. Still, I was not prepared when she asked me the other day if we could watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho together. I am talking about the Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, mother, knife, shower curtain being pulled back Psycho. I am not a horror movie fan.
Almost 30 years ago, my big, burly college football playing brother and I went to see The Silence of the Lambs together. After Doctor Lecter went off to have lunch and the end credits ran, my brother and I emerged from the theater. Standing under the bright marquee, we looked out at the dark parking lot. Buttoning his coat, my brother said, “Do you know what I am thankful for?” I looked at him quizzically. He whispered, “I am thankful we are men, because most serial killers kill women.” He then made a mad dash to the car with me in hot pursuit. Those shadows looked pretty menacing.
The Silence of the Lambs is a distant third when it comes to being scary, behind The Exorcist and Psycho. I have met several atheists who have been in foxholes, but when Regan levitates off the bed there is a small part of everyone that believes the devil exists.
Norman Bates, Psycho, forget about it. Not in a million years. I know that if we watch Psycho together there will be hands covering eyes, screams, begging for the lights to be left on, inability to sleep, and nightmares. I am talking about me. She will be fine. Still, she is too young. I told her no. This did not get the response I hoped for. She informed me that she was old enough to see it. I told her she wasn’t. This disagreement went back and forth several times before she stomped off, yelling over her shoulder, “I am going to see it with or without you.”
I hear the door slam. I realize she is right. I am bluffing. There is nothing her mother or I could do to stop her from watching that movie if she wants to. Hopefully, she doesn’t know that.
I sit there and have bone-chilling flashbacks, truly terrifying memories, of my parents and I having similar confrontations when I was a kid. This bundle of joy, this creature that makes you feel the love that you never realize existed, will be a speeding car with no brakes on a sheet of ice. You are just along for the ride. That is something more truly terrifying than any dumb horror movie.
Columnist Trevor Soderstrum was born and raised in Story City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.