I would never subject my sons to a nanosecond of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” The horror series is everything a young child shouldn’t see until his first pimple arrives – at the earliest.
Yet watching season three’s final few episodes gave me insights into parenting all the same. No, I’m not some survivalist who thinks zombies are part of the looming apocalypse. The show is far more thoughtful than that, a key reason why its ratings continue to soar.
The travails of father Rick (Andrew Lincoln), son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and the rest of the humans trying to fight back zombies offer plenty of (non-human) food for thought:
- Family Is Everything … to a Point: Fan favorite Daryl (Norman Reedus) sticks by his racist, hateful brother Merle (Michael Rooker) no matter how racist or hateful Merle proves to be. It’s a touching bond, but Daryl learns through the latest season that the folks back at the prison are just as much his family as Merle – maybe more. It’s a lesson we all should consider when assessing the family and friends in our own lives, and I’ll be sure to teach my boys this very notion as they get older.
- Modeling Matters: Young Carl began the series as an innocent pup, and now he’s a coldblooded killer, be it of zombies or humans. Where do you think he got that from? It didn’t help that Rick started seeing things mid-season three and cast aside some struggling humans who simply wanted some shelter and a dollop of protection. The season finale showed Rick seeing the error of his ways, but it may be too late for the impressionable Carl.
- Give Kids a Chance: While Carl’s moral path has been rocky, to say the least, the lad has become a fully functional member of the group despite his age. You can count on Carl, nearly as much as any of the adults in the group, when the zombies start shuffling onto the screen. This lesson hits home for me, for as a young boy I was often coddled and rarely had the chance to blaze my own trail. It hurt my self-confidence and stuck with me for some time.
- Be Prepared: Like a good Boy Scout, the men and women of TWD are always prepared – and that usually means they’re packing heat. Gun control worries tend to fade in zombie-plagued neighborhoods.
- If It’s Too Good to Be True, Question It: The Governor (David Morrissey) offers the citizens of Woodbury protection, order and a chance to rebuild society. It’s a fraud, as we all know now, but for a while it sounded awfully good. Children should know that some things are simply too good to be true, and they should bring a healthy sense of skepticism to their daily activities.