11 Parenting Tips from Alien

Alien vs Midwife put me in an Alien mood!

Alien is the perfect parenting horror movie because it presents the psychological as well as physical effects. Far too many fetal-fear films focus on something being INSIDE you, ooooo, and all kinds of things emerging, because they’re mostly made by men who don’t already have to deal with that shit. And every other bodily fluid. Even Ashe doesn’t endure as much body horror as pregnant parents, and Alien is the one film to get birth scenes right.

Technically extreme epidural. Remember that his head could have been reattached to a brand new body, meaning he’s still better off than most post-birth parents.

Alien is the fear of an unknown new lifeform rampaging through and ending our lives in ways we could never expect. It’s not just that the Nostromo crew couldn’t deal with the alien, it’s that they didn’t want to deal with it. This was thrust upon them as a surprise they were now compelled to deal with, that’s the HARD MODE of parenting terror, and their original drive was still just “get this over with and go back to sleep.”

These weren’t Starfleet super-competent avatars of idealism, dedicating their lives to befriending new beings in an impossibly neat utopia. These were already extremely tired workers now annoyed by screaming and a slobbering monster they couldn’t ignore without risking death. This is real human suffering and endurance. Because “the ship’s gravity drive has torn open a tachyon portal to … something will never be as terrifying as a sudden loud noise and “What NOW?”

All that horror and human parents should still be jealous of Alien. Not only do they have a better birthing strategy, they also enjoy zero post-natal care. They fob the entire pregnancy off on random passers-by, then the newborn alien scampers off to get out of everyone’s way and grow up all by itself. Within an hour that thing was fully grown and effectively captain of its very own starship and oil refinery*, making Alien Mothers even higher achievers than Tiger ones.

*technically considerably increasing its body count

The least Aliens can do is provide some parenting tips. Listed here!

  • The person actually dealing with things makes the short term decisions. It doesn’t matter what wonderful plans someone scheduled, if you’re right there and surrounded by slimy organic matter you get to cancel everything.
  • Remember when Ellen Ripley was sternly insisting on the proper rules, but Ash gave up because everyone was screaming and yelling? Remember how that turned out? The “easy” option often makes shit much harder in the long run. Don’t teach your kids that they can get their way by whining and/or biting chunks of your face off.
  • The cat’s schedule will be disrupted by the new arrival. If you don’t grab your cat and give it special attention you’ll pay the price.
  • A disinterested authority figure who has to be repeatedly poked to do anything sucks ass, Dallas. And one big dramatic physical effort to try to make everything better won’t work and will actually make everything worse. The sooner you start ignoring idiots who think they’re in charge the better it’ll be for everyone, including them.
BAD PARENT: Everything’ll be fine!
GOOD PARENT: <smiling through already knowing everything will not be fine, everything will in fact exceed all previous bounds of unfinery. A silk shirt woven from antimatter would be less catastrophically unfine>
  • Deal with things when they happen instead of just swearing*. Ask Brett if he wished he’d grabbed Jonesy the cat instead of having to wander into the alien-infested ship’s Main Ominous Chamber.

*This deliberately allows dealing with things AND swearing, but only until your baby is learning words.

  • The Alien is a simple being and will just keep doing what it’s doing unless you change the situation. This won’t usually be a starship escape pod, but future parenting technology may change this.
  • Of course it’s when you’re just about to go to back to sleep that the worst will happen.
  • WARNING: opening the door and hurling them outside not a valid parenting strategy.
  • Parker and Brett are worker icons. It doesn’t matter if your job is in deep space, GET PAID, do the work you’re paid for and not one iota more unless it personally benefits you. Extremely important advice for parents who now have one infinity more things they could be doing.
  • That scene where Ellen is screaming at the “MOTHER!” computer, cursing them out for doing exactly what they had to do? Yeah, that’s good practice. Sit through that a few times.
  • Sometimes you’ll feel like just blowing everything up. But that just leaves you having to deal with the same problems in far worse circumstances with much less stuff to help you*.

*Except in Aliens, where it works great, but you need a squad of space marines and a gigantic robot exoskeleton to help you deal with the baby. Which would help! I’d pay a lot of money to watch Colonial Marines and a Baby, if only as scientific research to see if there’s anything they suck even worse at.

All of which makes Alien a perfect representation of parenting: something brilliant and enjoyable which you can’t actually do anymore while your kid is still awake.

Parenting Fallout

As a parent I want to give my child skills which will help them in the future, but as a realist I realise they’re probably the skill list from Fallout 3.

I wasn’t quite this qualified when I recently hit Level 40. Though my laser physics degrees do count as Energy Weapons!

Alien vs Midwife

An Alien chest-burster’s trajectory through your ribcage is a hell of an opening line. It’s the most iconic moment of body-horror ever filmed, despite delivering things faster and easier than millions of real human births. Much is made of Alien’s themes of sexual violence* but not nearly enough is said about the brutally obvious birth. Ignoring Alien’s obstetric implications is a more painful excision from pop culture than Darth Vader getting his limbs lightsabered off.

*as opposed to Aliens’ themes of violence violence, the most dramatic apostrophe placement in cinema history

The chest-birthing scene couldn’t be more on the nose if the alien had emerged through his nostrils. Kane collapses, thrashing and bleeding as a living thing emerges from his body, and here’s the thing: he should have been fine. He didn’t die because of the alien, he died because he was surrounded by panicking idiots and an actual corporate machine prepared to kill people if that made more money*. If he’d been in an ER they might have saved him. If he’d been in a maternity ward they’d absolutely have saved him, it wouldn’t even have been the hardest work they’d done that week, and they’d even have caught the alien because a midwife’s most primary skill is “not letting slimy little things drop on the floor”.

* topical for Americans

For far too many people the horror isn’t that an alien emerged but that it emerged from a guy. Because on a scale of one to real human births this xenomorph’s emergence isn’t even a three*. It broke through his ribcage, sure, but it was out and over inside a minute. It was only the size of a decent shit. (Note: if you’re upset by the sudden appearance of shit you’re REALLY going to have to get over that as a parent). If it had just emerged through his digestive system he might not even have noticed, especially if it had waited for the morning after their feast of fast reprocessed food, booze, and an incredibly long cryogenic lie-in.

*though in the context of Alien three is actually really bad

That alien baby punched straight out: no muss, no fuss, no biotopological yoga or umbilical lasso. And say what you will about xenocidal parasites knowing nothing but murder and reproduction, at least their offspring have heads the same size as the holes they have to push through. No pelvis-wrecking headbutts here. That thing was a birth-torpedo. It puts our reproduction to shame.

Some people see human childbirth as a beautiful natural process. Specifically people physically incapable of doing it and mentally incapable of empathy, usually proposing legislation which would lock women in Harry Houdini-style style glass boxes full of chains submerged in shark tanks until their due date. Childbirth is a natural process, because “natural process” means “without a lot of expert help almost everything involved dies early”. Nature is an neverending deathmatch we’re winning so hard some people forget it’s fatal. “Natural” childbirth is leading a conga across a minefield: people started off having fun together but now someone’s leading people into pointless danger.

Safe natural processes don’t have dedicated hospital wards. There’s no sneezing ward. You won’t see a blinking ward. Go to a hospital and you’ll find wards for intensive care, cancer, neurological trauma, and childbirth. Most births go brilliantly now specifically because it’s extremely serious and some spectacular people work extraordinarily hard to help. If the Nostromo crew had included a midwife then stringers of alien drool wouldn’t have been a horrifying reason to spend your last seconds alive slowly looking straight up into a new camera, they’d be happily dabbed with a tissue by a smiling parent.

Square Pegs, Square Holes, and the Shape of Things to Come

Struggling to put a square peg in a round hole is an adorable expression of childish incompetence. Struggling to put a square peg in a square hole is a less-adorable example adult incompetence, because some asshole didn’t do their job and there’s no way to even find out who because they already have your money. Behold the toy teaching little TNG this lesson early!

More driving fun than Mario Kart

Isn’t it pretty? Isn’t it fun? Isn’t it appalling that the sky blue square block isn’t a cube, but also isn’t obviously not a cube. To the untrained eye of anyone but a Terminator that colourful cube-alike is a trap of frustration, almost fitting the hole. And like every other example of the word “almost” it means “annoyingly and absolutely NOT”. Because only the exactly right yet visually indistinguishable orientation of this pseudocube will actually pass through the square hole.

It’s a masterpiece of frustration. It’s the only way of using a lump of wood to damage a baby’s understanding of cause and effect without being arrested. At least Rubix cubes come with colourful warnings that they’re going to make you waste your time twisting things round and round. It’s My First Hellraiser, but more evilly frustrating, because at least the Lament Configuration looks  like it’ll be painful to deal with.

This isn’t a toy, this is training new brains to reject Euclidian geometry before raising them to fight Lovecraftian monsters. We can only imagine their teddys would be both amazing and grounds for severe psychological review, the only stuffed toys to require superstring stitching.

This solid chunk of failure is worse than pathetic, it’s apathetic. Everyone involved in assembling this child’s toy plodded through the motions without the ideas of children or joy even occurring to them. Nobody tried a a prototype, nobody picked up a product to play with, not even once, because it’s the most immediately obvious flaw short of making the blocks out of grenades. This toy was pitched, designed, tested, marketed, and sold by the soulless machine of capitalism without one person spending a second on the actual product.

I’ve thrown away the cube. Making me smarter than everyone in every Hellraiser. But it still opened my eyes to a world of terrible realisation.

EVERY peg and hole toy has a similar problem. Not the exact same cubic shortfall, but an analogous carelessness of cash-extraction over actual function. Behold this beautiful shape toy with its circle, triangle, and square.

My first ATLAS detector

But it doesn’t have a circle, triangle, and square. It has circular, triangular, and square prisms. Even when they’re perfectly shaped you still need to orient them to fit them through the holes. Which is fine, and fun, but it would be so much more fund and fundamental to have a sphere, tetrahedron, and cube. Those would fit through any face while tactilely teaching kids with shapes which are more basic AND more interesting. But they’d cost slightly more to make so we just don’t. Ever! I’ve never even seen such a toy! Because even our “simplest” activities have assumed and unmentioned conditions interfering with their basic functions just to make more money for someone else.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to complain that every problem is caused by capitalism. Some are just stupid! Behold that bottom string:

Yes, you red string, you SHOULD try to hide at the back in shame

That rubber thread prevents the pieces from falling out, and was designed by someone who hasn’t even heard of having children. They think they’re making props for a diplomatic exchange of concepts with energy aliens who haven’t had solid forms in star-centuries. Because you, an adult, can reach through the gap to pull the blocks out. But any baby young enough to actually play with this can’t. So this cylinder is specifically crafted so prevent your child from playing in peace, instead springing up to demand your help every five to twenty-five seconds depending on their fine motor skills. That’s negative feedback for both child and parent.

Which is why I cut the bottom string. And you know something has to be severely annoying to make man to say that without flinching.

These toys teach true lessons: people will frustrate you just to save money, or because they didn’t actually think. So throw away their mistakes and cut through their obstacles. Lessons which will help the next generation with everything from playing with toys delivered by Jeff Bezos to invading the eco-crash retreat compound of the man himself.  

NOTE: both these toys are brilliant in every other way. Simple fixes make everything better!

Appreciating Preciousness

Walking in the sunshine this morning little TNG picked up a fallen rose petal. He was fascinated by the wonderful softness, entranced by this little slice of perfect beauty, but of course as time went on it was rumpled, and wrinkled, until it was gone and fell away from him as he continued to play, and I was like JESUS I GET IT LIFE I’M ALREADY APPRECIATING THESE FLEETING MOMENTS OF TENDER HAPPINESS AS HARD AS I FUCKING CAN, GOD

Way of the Baby Ninja!

Babies strike at your organs before you even know they exist. Therefore babies are ninjas! In fact they suddenly appear in your home, drain your blood for nine months, then spend decades emptying your bank accounts while being much better at new technologies than you. That’s regular ninja, anime series ninja and cyberpunk hackerninja all in one. The three thing-throwing* fates, a shadowy trinity of ninjae past present and future, and they’re all instinctively programmed to target you. You must learn their ways!

*Ninja normally throw shuriken but if your baby’s hurling those you have more fundamental parenting problems

The first step in dealing with baby ninja is understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. In fantasies they’re almost magical beings who suddenly appear and change lives. Specifically they change lives to be “over”, ninjas in the physical sense, babies in a more metaphorical “old way of life” but still utterly absolute sense. But in reality they’re deeply mercenary beings who often make a mess.

In reality more babies than ninja have worn tightly wrapped black clothes. Because most ninja were spies, which meant dressing as civilians instead of wearing shadow pyjamas. Ninja were more likely to pretend to be farmers cowering at the edges of a battle then reporting to their master that the northern armies had just obliterated each other if he fancied grabbing a new palace in that direction.

Babies are the same: fooling you into letting your guard down while gathering intel, learning where you keep your most valuable items, then striking the second you’re distracted. Pretending to be powerless is how you defeat someone ten times larger than you. Especially when you strike weak points like throats or genitals. (NOTE: babies strike at genitals harder than anything else in existence, but only when you’re giving birth to them. If you haven’t given birth to them you just don’t understand it. No, you don’t, shut up dudes, even the most Summerslamtastic of Infant Elbows to the balls is nothing compared to birth.)

Babies lull you into a false sense of security, wait until you’re already hassled and distracted, then when you’re trying to put them in the buggy HIYA! They strike with Starfish Pose! Four Limbs, Four Compass Points, Immovable Style! And you can’t rely on only superior strength to defeat baby ninja. That’s rule one of both “fighting ninja” and “not getting arrested for being the world’s worst parent”. Instead we must be like the martial arts hero and learn from our opponents’ techniques. Just as people can learn the ways of darkness to become Shadow Ninja, or the ways of anime combustion to become Fire Ninja, you must study the tricks of the tiny to become a Baby Ninja!

The first rule of (baby) ninja is giving your target your full attention. This’ll honestly solve 90% of the problems you’ll ever have and prevent 99% more. The second rule is never underestimating anyone. We’re told that babies are the future and will exceed us, and like fools we ignore this warning! This isn’t an eventual hope, it’s an urgent alert! They’ve already started! Don’t let your guard down unless you want to find it chewed in half and covered in marmalade! Babies will find ways to inflict injuries you’ve never dreamed of, and the fact they’ll inflict them on themselves only makes them more psychologically powerful.

A powerful example of proper Baby Ninja technique is Ninja Nose Cleaning. Too often you’ll see distracted parents with phones in one hand, tissues in the other, half-heartedly poking at a nose-fountain only to smear it across an entire face like they’re applying the world’s worst facemask. Half-hearted nose cleaning is like a half-hearted Aztec sacrifice: now there’s an awful mess, everyone’s screaming, and it didn’t even work. Babies treasure snot like Warhammer Orks value teef: hoarding an awful wealth which no-one else even wants except to get rid of. There are churches worshipping what they claim is Christ’s blood which won’t react as violently if you try to take their bodily fluids.

The Baby Ninja must approach their snotty child as prey. Your goals are incompatible. You cannot calmly explain that you want to wipe their nose, or gently wave a warning tissue across their bows, for this will sacrifice the advantage of surprise. You can’t start this casually and hope things will work out, because it won’t, and now their guard is up along with their volume and fluid output. You must remember that the peace-seeking parent-ninja only does this for the good of everyone, so even secret blows are moral. You must achieve this mission to prevent a stain on your honour, in this case is represented by your sofa. Approach your target as a ninja: silently, take a firm grip, and a strong strong horizontal motion to prevent them from making noise until it’s too late. Tidy as necessary.

Meditate on this example and learn your own ways of the Baby Ninja. Understand the truth that the parent and the ninja have much in common. Like the idea of perfect skills making things easy being a total fantasy invented by people who’ve never done it and are trying to make money from fiction. Both parents and ninja are just people working much harder than normal, trying to get through the days by finishing their jobs, and often making a mess of it, then having to deal with the consequences. Also both work for unquestionable hierarchical masters who had to be served and protected at any cost.