Things That Go Bump In The Night

In the one and only English Lit course I took in university I learned that the inspiration for the monster in Frankenstein was none other than the author herself, Mary Shelley. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was an accomplished eighteenth-century writer and she died prematurely due to complications from child birth. Thus the story of Frankenstein is of a child-like monster who kills its own creator. As is often the case monsters aren’t just for children, they are in fact children themselves.

There are many cultures that feature in their mythology a creature that feeds on the life essence of its victims. The nocturnal blood-sucking Eastern European vampire is part of this tradition. However in the real world there is a such a creature that can be found suckling out a life essence in the middle of the night, its called a baby.

What is slow moving, relentless and insatiably hungry? A zombie or a toddler? What has a giant head and a tiny little body? A newborn or one of those little green men from Mars? One exception to this rule is the werewolf, a person that morphs into a wild beast with big muscles and an abundance of body hair. Its definitely a teenager.

Prior to becoming a parent I found most children to be annoying little creatures. However I was told, like a certain ignoble wind, that you feel differently about your own. There is actually a scientific reason behind this and it is named after another famous Frank, American revolutionary Ben Franklin.

The Ben Franklin Effect happens when someone does a favor for a person they dislike. Then because of the subsequent cognitive dissonance they in turn will develop a more positive attitude towards that person. Salesmen take advantage of this psychological quirk by trying to get people to agree to small favours to set them up for the real sales pitch. Babies it appears know this instinctively.

Now as fate would have it about a year after becoming a father the company I worked for began a slow march toward bankruptcy. Thus for the majority of the time I’ve been a parent I’ve only been paid part time wages if I was getting paid at all. Thus most of the sundry duties associated with the children have fallen on my shoulders. While exhausting at times I won’t pretend like its the most difficult job on the planet. Comedian Bill Burr says it best:

In all fairness when it comes to raising kids is all about the volume of work required not the intensity needed to perform one particular task. While roofing is indeed back breaking work, there is an end of the shift or another prison term, where they will get to take a break. Truth be told I’ve never hurt my back on the job doing physical labour but I did it once trying to extract a kid that was stuck in an Exersauser.

So the question is now that I’ve had first hand experience raising kids has the Ben Franklin effect changed my attitude about children? I know that now when I have nightmares its usually because I envision something bad happening to them. Then when I wake up, usually because one of them is crying out, I think “Who created this monster? And with a touch of pride I realize it was me.


One response to this post.

  1. Your best post yet.


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