There’s nothing more soothing than emerging from the shower to a chorus of screams.
Those screams were quickly drowned out by the familiar yet chilling Daaa-Dum Daaa-Dum DUMDUMDUMDUMDUM followed by a cacophony of gurgling, splashing, thrashing and choked screaming. Then … silence, save for the gentle lapping of the waves.
My 8-year-old daughter had discovered "Jaws."
Most parents, when stepping into the living room to find their child scrolling through the Creature Feature previews on Amazon, would snatch that annoyingly tiny remote away and select something more kid-friendly, say "Good Luck, Charlie" or "Saved by the Bell."
Not in my house.
When I caught my daughter Jellybean adding titles like "Anaconda," "Lake Placid," "Mega-Shark" and "Psycho Shark" to our shared Watch List, she got a high-five instead of a whuppin’ — not that I spank. Usually the Dad Voice is enough to make her go all wide-eyed and twitchy.
Inspired by the recent book "Geek Parenting," I’ve begun plotting my own pop-culture guide to parenting, tentatively titled "Horror Movie Dad: Teaching Your Kids about Life, Death and the Dangers of Having Sex in the Woods (or Anywhere Until You’re at Least 35, with a Job, a Mortgage and a Refrigerator Full of Healthy Snack Food Alternatives)."
The book research began with "Jaws." Jellybean loved it to the point of obsession. Not to give too much of the book away, but when navigating a horror movie with a child, I have a few simple rules:
1. Nothing worse than a PG-13.
2. No movie I haven’t seen at least three times.
3. Warn of the really scary parts in advance.
4. Tell who survives, though not necessarily who dies.
5. Pay attention to the music; it’ll give away a scary part every time.
6. A sentimental moment of quiet is immediately followed by something scary.
7. If you get scared — either at home or in a theater — stare at the top right corner of the screen. That way you can "see" the movie peripherally without actually watching it.
8. If you’ve seen one shark movie, you’ve seen ’em all (save for "Sharknado" because, well, it’s "Sharknado").
Despite all the naysayers — namely grandparents who like to give that back-handed compliment, "Well, you’re a good dad even if I don’t always agree with your methods" — I have no desire to traumatize my child. I did that to my brother some 20 years ago, and I still feel kind of bad about that.
The Lovely Mother of My Children has veto power over any potential selection, and I refuse to play the "Don’t Tell Mom" game. I’ve got a great relationship with my ex-wife, and I’d rather not get demoted back to the Disney Channel.
Jellybean loves horror movies. More to the point, Jellybean loves knowing about horror movies. For the ones I won’t let her watch, she makes me tell the "story."
These are usually wrapped around something that happened to me as a kid. For example, "Arachnophobia," the only movie I ever walked out of — I hate spiders — and the date who let me leave. Or "What Lies Beneath," which I thought was a cheesy date movie but wound up scaring the daylights out of me more than once.
With "Jaws" under our belts, Jellybean has planned out viewings of "Jaws 2," "Jaws 3-D" and "Jaws: The Revenge." She’s excited about the latter because she can deliver the tagline in her best menacing horror movie narrator voice: "… and this time it’s personal."
I have created a monster, but at least she’s my monster.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.