There’s this part in the trailer for A Quiet Place that drives me nuts. The premise of the movie is that John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are parents in a postapocalyptic world in which monsters scour the land. The monsters hunt by sound, so it’s imperative that humans like Krasinski and Blunt stay quiet—and keep their kids quiet too. That’s why it makes me so furious when, in the trailer, one of the kids puts the entire family in jeopardy by playing with a spaceship toy that makes absurdly loud noises.
HEY IDIOT, MAYBE DON’T DO THAT! And what the hell, Krasinski and Blunt? You wanna maybe keep an eye on your kids, and maybe teach them that making noise is really, really bad—like, “the bogey monster will come and murder you” bad?
Now, in the movie, there is a somewhat reasonable explanation for how and why this kid comes into possession of the superloud spaceship, and spoiler alert: It somewhat absolves the parents. But the whole matter got me thinking about being a parent in this hostile, dangerous environment. And since I have not yet experienced the joys—and outright anxieties—of parenthood, I interviewed a few people who have: noted Ringer fathers Shea Serrano and Rob Harvilla, and noted Ringer mother Katie Baker. I asked the three a set of questions about raising and protecting children in a hypothetical world in which your survival depends on silence. Here is what they said. —Andrew Gruttadaro
How do you convince a 4-year-old to be quiet? Like, quiet all the time?
Rob Harvilla: Turn on PAW Patrol with the sound off, or mouth the words “Dairy Queen.”
Shea Serrano: I think if the kid grew up in an area where being quiet was the way you stayed alive, then he’d be pretty open to the idea (since you’d have been conditioning him for it since birth). If you take a kid from right now though, then it’s a wrap. Not counting sleep, I have a 5-year-old son who has never been quiet for more than eight seconds in a row. If he was dropped into the Quiet Place movie universe at 4 p.m. today, he’d be eaten by 4:00:10 p.m. today.
Katie Baker: Judging by my Facebook News Feed throughout December, kids these days respect Elf on the Shelf, right? (And by “respect,” I also mean “are indoctrinated into the surveillance state by.”) So maybe the key would be harnessing the motivational powers of that merry little Slender Man–looking Santa minion while also making it clear that he will kill you, capiche? I mean, if straight-up fear doesn’t do the trick I don’t know that a sticker chart would either.
Let’s say your child (or children) wants to play a board game. Do you let him or her?
Serrano: Sure. As long as it’s not a game that makes noise, then it’s fine.
Baker: Yes, because the alternative is sneaking out behind your back to play Candy Land in some strange person’s garage or out by the municipal fields.
What is the safest board game to play in this situation?
Baker: Hungry Hungry Hippos and pop-o-matic Trouble are out. I think a Monopoly-like game is the ticket. You’re definitely in no rush, and much can be communicated via wordless smirk or sulk. Plus, you can do a fair amount of scouting your kid’s strengths and weaknesses, which will come in handy. Is there a game like Monopoly that takes longer and weaves more complicated webs of alliances and ownership and oppression? Settlers of Catan might do the trick. Also, Ouija.
Serrano: Yeah, Monopoly’s a slow game, which means it’s a quiet game, and also it’s one of the board games that doesn’t have any sort of noisy mechanism that is part of the way the game is played.
Harvilla: I would suggest Uno, which has no dice or popper or other loud component. Also, the terrifying monsters triggered by sound would dissuade my kids from yelling “Uno!” when I have only one card left and forcing me to draw two penalty cards, which still irrationally enrages me.
Your child sees a shiny spaceship toy he or she likes that you’re definitely sure makes noise—what is your course of action?
Serrano: I tell him to fuck off. (I don’t say those exact words, obviously, but I let him know that he can’t have it.)
Baker: Just last week I found myself face-to-face in the supermarket with a furious, quaking, crimson toddler who had just been denied one of those little lemon-shaped bottles of lemon juice. There’s always this eye-of-the-storm moment right before the blood-curdling scream hits that is such a truly astonishing vacuum of sound that I wonder if it’s the key to John Krasinski defeating these movie monsters—like, what if the 30-second intake of tantrum breath has the power to deafen them? Anyway, I’d probably try to trade a candy bar with the one who wants the spaceship.
What do you do to be completely sure that your child doesn’t keep the spaceship after you tell him or her they can’t have it?
Harvilla: Tell him that if he touches it again I’m taking him to HomeGoods, the most boring store in America. (Granted, there is a large amount of loud, breakable stuff in HomeGoods, but it will not matter, as my children will be comatose.)
Baker: You could try to take the battery out, but that would probably require a screwdriver—no, not that one, it doesn’t fit, I said it doesn’t fit, OK, now you’ve stripped the screw—and even then there’s no guarantee that the damn thing won’t still randomly cry out in the night. I’ve seen zombie toys that rattle around for years without a clear source of power.
Serrano: There are very few times as a parent that you can ever be completely sure that your child won’t do a thing. I suppose you could take the spaceship and bury it somewhere, but that seems especially dramatic.
Your child—because he or she is a child—keeps bumping into things and knocking stuff over. What do you say to him or her?
Serrano: That’s really on you, not the kid. Kids bump things. That’s what they do. Getting mad at a kid who accidentally bumps into something is like getting mad at someone for getting sick. Nobody tries to get sick. It just happens. If you don’t want your kid to knock things over, then don’t have things around that can get knocked over.
Harvilla: I would mouth the words “no Dairy Queen.”
Baker: [points to Murderer Elf on the Shelf and silently mimes getting throat slit]
What would be the hardest part about all of this?
Baker: GIVING BIRTH SILENTLY.
Harvilla: Replenishing the ice in my giant-ass gin and tonic without making any noise.
Serrano: The constant threat of your children being eaten seems like it’d be pretty tough to deal with. That’s just me, though. I am super against any of my children getting eaten by a thing.
You find out your child is planning on losing her virginity on prom night as part of a sex pact—do you try to stop her?
Baker: [record scratch] Wait, are we still doing the keep-silent thing?
Whoops! Wrong parental-themed movie. Whatever, though—Shea, I feel like you have an answer for this.
Serrano: I remember getting ready to leave for prom when I was a senior. My dad was standing in the kitchen and he said, “Make sure you’re home by midnight.” I said, “Dad, there’s no chance I’m home by midnight. In all likelihood, I won’t be home until tomorrow morning.” He said, “I’m telling you right now, you’d better be here when I say to be here.” I said, “I hear you, dad. I really do. But it’s just not gonna happen.” I left, went to prom, then came home the next morning. Same as I mentioned earlier: There are very few times as a parent that you can ever be completely sure that your child won’t do a thing. So what I’m saying is no, I would not try to stop her.
Harvilla: I’ve got 10 years or so left before I have to deal with this shit, and I plan on enjoying every second of them.