Waking the Walker

A mother's quest to survive her son's "zombie" years – aka his teens.

Tag: zombies

Fear of the Unknown

We all experience fear in some way throughout our lives. It’s a normal human emotion. With every stage or rite of passage in our lives, apprehension can set in, it’s all part of the growth process.

As children our fears tend to be simple and easily eased by an adult. As we age though, the things that make us pause become a bit more serious. These are the things that are tied directly to our future.


A wrong decision could change the course of our lives forever, which is why I completely understand my Son’s apprehension when it comes to driving.

By our teens, fear of the unknown can be extremely polarizing, preventing us from moving forward and possibly stunting our emotional health. To be honest, polarization can happen at any age, and again, we’ve all probably experienced some level of it at some point in our lives. As a parent though, it’s my job to help guide my Son through these polarizing experiences so he can move forward.

The question is how to do this without seeming pushy or prying?

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Much like walkers, teenagers can meander aimlessly, not in search of fresh flesh, but with their noses buried into an electronic devise and no destination in mind, unless they’re playing Pokemon Go. In addition they spend much of their free time hauled up in the dark cocoon of their room, staring into the blue glow of their computer monitor, but, unlike walkers who would be motivated by any loud noise, it takes more than that to get a teenager to leave their “cave” even when food is involved.

As a matter of fact, if their headphone wearing teens, like mine, they are even more insulated from noise, making the motivation factor an even bigger challenge. Not even the smell of food can lure them from the security of their virtual world. To be honest, I think walkers are more motivated than most teenagers, or at least my teenager.


Motivating my walker to do anything outside of what is absolutely necessary is a major challenge. Some days even that can be extremely frustrating.

Although, my Son was determined to get exempt from final exams this past school year, which meant getting straight A’s for final grades, which he did achieve. He had a goal and was motivated to follow through. I was glowing. I felt like we were actually turning a corner.

The problem was, once accomplished, he shut down. Some shut down over the Summer can be expected, but my Son was all about getting a Summer job so he could earn money for some games he preordered which are due out in November. I figured this alone would be enough of a catalyst.

Boy was I wrong.

He thought he had a Summer job all lined up at the Daycare he volunteers at, unfortunately when we approached them about it we were told they didn’t have the money in the budget. Of course, he could still volunteer. Why pay for labor when you can get it for free.

He is volunteering one day a week, but has decided he will not continue during the school year. Can’t blame him for that. He’s been helping out there for 4 years. He knows more than some of the people who were hired after he started volunteering. He should have been hired even if just one day a week.

SO, now he had to go back to square one and it was already June. Needless to say he dilly-dallied and till he even put one application in it was the middle of July. Who wants to hire you for a couple weeks?

Zoned Out Teen

The last thing I wanted was my already zoned out walker having too much free time on his hands over the Summer. I had previously told my Son there are plenty of things to do around the house that I could pay him, outside of his standard chores, but he wasn’t very receptive, so, I decided to create an application for a House Project Assistant. He seemed to like this and completed the application at which time we discussed the projects.

One of the biggest projects was shredding old documents. I have boxes of files to shred and just never seem to have the time. The position would pay $10 per box. Easy money, right? If he did all the boxes he would have almost all the money he needed. I thought for sure this time I had found the answer to motivate my walker.

The first Saturday after completing the application he came home from his second volunteer job at the library and went right to shredding, completing one box. I was thrilled. I figured the combination of convenience of work and desire for game related funds had done the trick to get my walker moving.

47474938 - illustration of a cartoon man with shredder

We are now in August and he has not done any more shredding. He did purge his clothing which was a project avoided by both of us for a while, so I was grateful he got that done.

With Band Camp the last two weeks of August and football/marching season starting August 26th, I highly doubt I’ll see much more work out of my House Project Assistant and I’m concerned that a Summer with very little structure and self-discipline will spell disaster come his Junior Year in High School, which we all know is the year that counts the most when it comes to college.

My Son swears it will not. I hope he is right.

It’s not like he hasn’t done anything all Summer though. Besides his 2 volunteer jobs, he also had to get college and career research done and auditioned for Jazz Band and Section Leader in Band, which entailed more practice and essay writing. In addition, he did a one-week video game design camp, which turned out to be a worthy investment for his future.

Yes, I can actually say something video game related was good in reference to my Son.

As I have mentioned in the past, my son is a big gamer, and although that is not my thing, I am well aware of its relevance in the entertainment world.

Video games were not even a thing of the future when I was kid, but now there are many making a lucrative living as game creators and coders. It is for this reason that I had to finally acknowledge that it was a valid career to pursue, which made my Son very happy.

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We have already begun college visits and all of them have been to schools that offer game design as an arm of the computer science program. I find this all very exciting, but my Son seems far from exhilarated about any of it. I don’t know if it’s because the reality of moving into that phase of his life is frightening or if he just isn’t that enthusiastic.

It is for this reason that I’m concerned my very creative child who has been coming up with game ideas since he was 7 years old will end up being nothing more than a tester of someone else’s games because he’s just not that motivated. He’s got the talent and brain to be the next great game creator, but he just doesn’t seem to have the drive and I have no idea how to change that. When he’s playing he’s very enthusiastic, but when it comes to reviewing and comparing schools and what they offer he does as little as possible.


Knowing my Son, I suspect fear of being a “grown up,” so to speak, is at the root of his ambivalence. Since he showed promising signs of maturity during his Sophomore Year, I hope and pray by the time he gets through his Junior Year he will have risen to a new level in the maturity department.

If he does not, Community College may be his best option. I do not want to put out a large chunk of change for a big dog school if my Son isn’t going to do his part. Fortunately for him, the local Community College does offer Video Game Design/Programing so, it’s not like he’d be giving up on his dream, he’d just be taking the longer root to achieving it and hopefully “growing up” through the process.

So, although my Son may be “dragging his feet” in the drive to achieve department, he does still at his core have the goal to fulfill his dream of becoming a Video Game Designer/Programmer, and it is this fact that allows me to keep the faith that his enthusiasm and motivation level will shift into at least the “rabid walker” mode sometime through his Junior.


© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2016. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy of AMC

Paper Shredder – Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_brux’>brux / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Want Ad – Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_tashatuvango’>tashatuvango / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Gamer – Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_iconicbestiary’>iconicbestiary / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Monsters Under the Bed

Monsters Under the BedAs a child I’m sure you had things that frightened you, I know I did. During the day all would be fine, but once night fell, my imagination would run wild with images of monsters under my bed, in my closet or at the window outside. Every noise I heard during the night was sure to be something scary with fangs and claws coming to get me. God forbid I had to go into the basement by myself. And not just at night, it could have been any given time of the day. That was the dungeon of all things creepy, lurking in every dark corner.

For me, vampires were my number one nemesis. Guessing I watched way to many Bella Lugosi movies in my formative years. Even in the summer, I would sleep with sheets pulled up around my neck. Hell, I still do. Some habits die hard. Even though I knew vampires weren’t real, the imagery in books, films and even TV, remember “Dark Shadows,” laid out an extremely believable world. Enough so that I bought the concept of these undead creatures roaming the earth by the dark of the night in search of their next victim. As an adult, I know better, although I can honestly say that I have known people who are vampire-like, sucking the life out of me, draining me physically, emotionally and mentally. They scare me more than the fictional ones for sure.
Zombie Teen
As you know, if you’re a regular reader, as a child, my son had a major fear of zombies eating his brain during the night, so he slept with a knit cap on. He has fortunately out grown that, and actually visualizes how he would battle them. Another valuable lesson learned from “The Walking Dead.” He keeps quite an arsenal of Nerf weapons in his room, just in case. (Funny thing though, what he doesn’t get is that his love of electronics is the “real” zombie slowly eating away at his brain. And the new monster under my bed keeping me awake at night and during the day.)

My son, however, is still not fond of a dark house. He turns on lights en route to every room and very often leaves the trail of lights on even with threats to use his allowance to pay the electric bill. The irony here is that he can watch and read things other than “The Walking Dead” that are definitely in the horror genre. Not the slice ‘em dice ‘em ones, but the supernatural, creatures from another world ones, like “American Horror Story” and “Supernatural.” I’m not a huge fan of “American Horror Story,” not because it’s not a good show, but because I found it hard to follow and a bit too out there for me. If that’s believable. “Supernatural” on the other hand sucked me in just like “The Walking Dead” and has become our new addiction.
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Give It Your All

“The average person puts about 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes its hat off to those who put more than 50% of their capacity into their work, and the world stands on it’s head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” – Andrew Carnegie

Besides the weekly task of waking my walker and battle to cut back on video game/electronic use, I also struggle with trying to impress upon my son the importance of not just showing up. The importance of giving your all, not just enough to get by.  This is a huge frustration for me because I can see my son’s potential. Potential just wasting away with each passing marking period. The issue has been getting progressively worse since middle school, and with his freshman year in high school it has come to a head.

Snoozing TeenHis grades are see-sawing and he’s carrying a “C” in his engineering elective class. A class I figured he’d ace because it’s hands on and he loves building stuff.  At first I thought the “C” was an indication that maybe engineering really isn’t his thing, even with his Lego junky disposition. Since he was a toddler, he has been building sets well above his age level. Engineering just seemed like the perfect fit. How could I be so wrong? It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to speak with his engineering teacher that I found out it was nothing like that. My son does get the material, he just doesn’t give it his all and it’s not that he doesn’t enjoy what he’s doing, he does. The bottom line, he’s become academically lazy. He starts out with gusto, but fizzles out three quarters of the way through. His follow-through has become a follow-stop.

A habit that is getting increasingly worse as he gets older and one I believe has occurred because in his elementary days he was never really challenged and didn’t have to work hard to get good grades. He never really learned how to “Give it his all.” because he didn’t really have to. When he hit middle school, more was expected of him, and at times there was evidence of more effort, but in general, he found a way to just get by, even though his teachers and myself told him this will come back to bite him in high school. He needed to pick up his game and change his habits before he got to high school, otherwise he will fall behind and end up playing catch-up.

Now, all our predictions are coming true. Although he may still be getting A’s and B’s in his academic classes, he’s had more and more poor test grades, especially in math, which used to be one of his top subjects.  Eventually this will trickle into his final grade if he doesn’t wake up soon. He is actually getting help with math after school so he can get caught up. His mid-term exam was horrible. This is a first and a major red flag, not just for me, but for him, because he thought he did fine on the exam.
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LOSS Addendum

Since starting this blog a year ago, finding “The Walking Dead” thread that held each months theme threadtogether usually came pretty easy. The link was always fairly obvious. As a matter of fact, it was that thread that moved the theme forward. I could see the beginning, middle and end before I ever typed a word. That was until last month. I had a seedling of an idea but wasn’t quite sure how I was going to seam it all together with my TWD thread. Even with the topic of loss, an obvious issue during an apocalypse, I was at a loss, no pun intended. The light bulb never went off. I did complete the post, but with minimal TWD stitching. I didn’t feel it was best, although my siblings felt it was, partly because it didn’t have a strong TWD tie. (Note, they do not watch the show, but are considering checking it out since I started this blog. Their curiosity has been sparked.)

Part of my struggle with my December post was not just the holidays, but the inner struggles my families personal challenge was and still is creating. (See December post for details.) My mind was clouded and my heart filled with sorrow. Something you’d think would help move the subject of loss along, but not in this case, it frustrated and stagnated me. It made me feel like I should abandon this blog like the many homes and businesses left behind when the zombie apocalypse hit in “The Walking Dead.” It was my personal goal to post monthly that helped me forge ahead. I didn’t want to let myself down. As I pulled my final words together on the 31st, I told myself the TWD thread may not be as strong as my previous posts, but it was good enough and once read, the reader would understand why. As I hit publish with just a few hours to spare on December 31st, a sense of relief filled my soul. I did it despite my struggles. I could toast the new year feeling good about myself and my blog.

As I sat on New Year’s Eve with my cocktail of choice in hand watching AMC’s New Year’s TWD marathon I released all concerns about the December post and let myself be consumed by my now favorite apocalyptic world filled with walker mayhem and unforgettable characters. By rewatching the show from the very first episode, my son and both realized there were quite a few details we had either forgotten or missed. It was like watching it for the first time. We were sucked in all over again.
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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

By the time I post this, we will be a week into summer vacation and my son’s middle school years will be a blur in my rearview mirror, so, I thought it would be the ideal time to evaluate the impact my new “TWD Apocalyptic Parenting Tactic” has had on my son and myself. This experiment, as I like to call it, really just got off the ground in January, so I’m only pooling from five months, but, knowing that summer and high school (UGHHHH!) will bring on new challenges, I figured it would be good to review what works and what doesn’t. So, here we go. Note, if you haven’t read any other posts besides this one, the next couple paragraphs won’t make much sense, but hopefully they’ll inspire you to read my previous posts.

First I’ll start with the concept, “TWD Apocalyptic Parenting Tactic.” Knowing that I have hit a nerve with my son on more than one occasion, pretty much seals this as a valid method of parenting, at least for me. Plus, having “The Walking Dead” as a bonding factor has helped our relationship grow in ways I never thought possible. As a matter of fact, my end of middle school gift to my son was a trip to the Philly Wizard World/Comic Con, where we had our picture taken with Norman Reedus, AKA, Daryl Dixon in “The Walking Dead.” Then, later in the summer, we will be road tripping to Atlanta to do the Big Zombie Tours by Atlanta Movie Tours, Inc. These are tours of areas in and around Atlanta where “The Walking Dead” is filmed. I don’t know to many 14 year old boys who would be excited to spend their summer vacation with just Mom. It’s amazing what these zombies have done for us.

Carl in AMC's "The Walking Dead"


“What Would Carl Do?” worked well at first, but, when Carl’s character became a smart aleck brat teen in the back half of season four, the last thing I wanted was my son looking to him as a role model. Carl did start to redeem himself by the end of the season, but, until I see where the writers go with him in season five, I will back off a little on this one.
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