Anyone who has followed my blog knows I'm a bona fide Monster Kid. I had all the Aurora monster models, dozens of 8mm versions of classic horror and sci-fi movies from Castle Films, and a huge collection of Famous Monsters of Filmland (and believe me, I've been kicking myself for years for just throwing out those back issues when I started high school). Every Saturday afternoon, if I wasn't home watching my favorite monster movies on WLVI Channel 56's Creature Double Feature, I was hanging out with Curtis Brown and John Harrington at the Park Theater in downtown Everett where we watched those same creatures battle it out on the big screen. Those days bring back some epic memories.
Through it all, I was lucky to have parents who encouraged this monster mania, especially my mother. It's safe to say that if it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be posting this as a horror writer.
Recently a fan asked me a question about those years that for the life of me I couldn't answer: why did my mother allow me to be a Monster Kid rather than try and steer my energies into more traditional hobbies?
So this weekend I went on a quest to answer this question about my past. Well, not actually a quest. I hit the MUTE button on the remote and called my mother on the cell phone.
Me: "Mom, you gotta help me. I'm desperate for a blog and need to interview you."
Mom: [Laughing] "So I'm a last resort? That makes me feel good."
Me: "I was just curious why you indulged my love of monsters when I was a kid."
Mom: "Because you liked monsters, and I always let you do the things you liked."
Me: "Weren't you afraid I'd become a weird, twisted kid?"
Mom: "Of course not. I used to tell you those things weren't real. And you didn't turn out too bad."
The truth is I haven't done too bad turning my love for the macabre into a side career. And there were no adverse side effects. I didn't grow up to torture small animals (I'm an animal lover and dote on my four house rabbits) or torment other kids. I haven't secretly buried any bodies in the back woods of northern Virginia, and don't suffer from any more psychoses than most other writers.
However, the relevant part of this blog is not about me being a Monster Kid, but about my parents allowing me to pursue my passion. It would have been so easy for them to steer me into activities that were more in line with the other kids. Think about it. How many fathers imagine their sons winning the Superbowl or the World Series? Quite a few. How many imagine their sons getting a five-star review from Fangoria? Probably not that many. Yet my parents were wise enough to look beyond what I was passionate about to see that allowing me to express myself and be creative were what was best in the long run.
[NOTE: The only time they disagreed over my idiosyncracies was when I was ten and asked for a Barbie doll. My father was understandably aghast at the apparent gender crisis, but my mother was supportive. She asked, "And why do you want a Barbie?" I replied, "Because G.I. Joe needs shore leave." My father was relieved. My mother never did get me the doll.]
I love seeing that same creativity in kids today. My six-year-old niece Kiera and my girlfriend's ten-year-old daughter Maddy love to tell me stories, and I'm fascinated by each one they tell. Not because the stories are brilliant, but because of the passion with which they tell it, and the joy in their eyes because an adult is interested in what they have to say. I can't help but wonder (and hope) that some day these little girls will grow up to be another Anne Rice or J.K Rowling.
So let your kids express themselves and don't force them to conform. Their imaginations are much too precious to squander on reality.