Any parent of a teenager can attest that those highly coveted, deep and meaningful conversations between child and parent, the ones we wish occurred daily, are actually far and few between. Try as we might, discussions surrounding topics like school, church, employment, and planning for the future, usually result in blank stares or moans and groans.
But a very wise woman (AKA my wife) once explained that when it comes to communicating with your kids, a good conversation on a ridiculous subject is better than no discussion on an important subject. Sort of a “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach. That is some solid advice for any parent and I have taken it to heart. I have three children all under the age of 15, so the topics are pretty diverse. Recently, I had a heated discussion with my 8-year old daughter about what kind of “My Little Pony” I would be and what secret pony power I would have (yes, they all seem to have cool powers). And with my 11-year daughter I spent what seemed like hours deliberating which member of the boy-band “One-Direction” has the most talent. This debate involved the two of us watching several music videos on YouTube. I finally unplugged the wi-fi when she wasn’t looking. Now if you quiz me next month, I guarantee I won’t be able to remember a single pony name or any song from Wrong Direction.
Now with my 14-year old son, there is one topic that he is always willing to discuss: the Zombie Apocalypse. Yes, I know that there is absolutely no chance that the “end of the world as we know it” will come about because the dead rise up and start eating brains. The Zombie Apocalypse ranks on the bottom of the impossible list, right below a hostile space alien invasion and a robot uprising. These are all great movie and television themes, but they are just not going to happen in the real world. But my son is passionate about preparing for this gruesome future crisis and rarely misses a chance to point out things like “that house would be great for zombie defense because the windows are all high,” and “the best time of year to hunt zombies is the winter, because they are frozen”. So I have spent many hours discussing weapons, survival tactics, safe shelter construction, medical supplies, etc. Hmmm…starting to sound familiar? Sure does! At some point in these conversations I realized that my son probably has more knowledge and better survival skills that most of the weekend warrior preppers out there.
So how does preparing for the fictional Zombie Apocalypse jive with actual TEOTWAWKI prepping? Well if you can get past topics like “how to assemble your own flamethrower” and “tips to transforming a water tower into a zombie-proof bungalow”, then you might just discover like I did, several useful gems of knowledge. Having an open mind is absolutely required. So if you are ready, here are four jewels that my zombie obsessed teenage son taught me.
Fill up that Bath Tub
One Sunday afternoon, my son posed this question: “So what is the first thing you should when the Zombie Apocalypse happens?”
“Too easy,” I said, “Load your gun and get to high place.”
“Nope. Fill your bathtub up with water”
His answer caught me off guard. “What? Why?”
“Having drinkable water is the single most important thing to have when you’re trapped in a house surrounded by zombies. Your tub holds a lot of water and it fills up in just a few minutes.”
Excellent tip! Whether you are bugging out or hunkering down, a good supply of drinkable water is paramount. If you are staying in your home during an emergency, then filling your tub at the first sign of trouble gives an average family several days of good water. Combine that with what is in your water heater, toilet tanks and any water storage, and you have greatly reduced your risk of running out of water in the short term. Even if the water that comes out of the tub’s faucet is slightly contaminated, like in the event of an earthquake or a damaged water main, it is probably safer to purify and drink than the water out in gutter or a nearby muddy pond. And the tub is indoors, making it easier to keep the water clean and protected.
Preppers Are Not Isolationists
A few weeks ago I asked my son this conversation starter and was surprised by the answer. “When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, which of our neighbors are going to make it and which will be Zombie-chow?”
Without hesitation he stated, “Well everyone in our cul-de-sac has useful skills and if we band together then I think everyone has a good chance of surviving”.
Great insight my boy! Don’t just get yourself ready for when the SHTF; help your neighbors get prepared as well, and then draw on each other’s strengths.
Now I will admit that I used to think that preppers and militant survivalists were the same bunch of dooms-days nuts living in remote desert bomb shelters. Remember Burt and Heather Gummer (Michael Gross and Reba McIntire) from the movie Tremors with their sweet Nevada survival bunker and massive arsenal of weapons? They were isolationists, prepared to survive the apocalypse without any outside help. Even if you tried to help them, you would likely get shot anyway.
I am not ashamed to admit that when it all comes crashing down, I am going to need some help. Most of us do not have a basement full of guns at our fully stocked, mountain safe house. Nor do we have years of experience repairing cars or raising chickens. But my next-door neighbor is a mechanic for a major railroad and the other neighbor makes all her children’s clothes: both very handy skills to have. So between these friends, the electrical engineer on the corner, and the police office and his registered nurse wife across the road, I’m feeling better about our chances. My son’s advice about “banding together” is as timeless as it is true. There is strength in groups. Reach out to your neighbors, get to know them and share your interest in prepping. I did, and discovered that the retired couple around the corner with the yappy little dogs, actually have a 1,000 pounds of wheat in their garage, and they even know how to grind it and make bread. Cool!
Don’t Forget Some Entertainment
One of our family’s favorite activities is to play the card game Uno. We are loud, silly and totally cutthroat with each other when we play. We usually play until one person has won two games. This might be 20 minutes or over an hour. Recently my son emerged the victor after a grueling bout and while doing his traditional in-your-face routine, he declared, “Uno would be an excellent game to play during the Zombie Apocalypse”.
Before I could even offer a rebuttal, both of his sisters jumped in with “it’s too noisy” and “the zombies will hear you, stupid”. Even my wife tossed in the comment, “isn’t shooting zombies all day long enough entertainment?”
“Everyone needs downtime and recreation,” my son replied. “Uno is great because you don’t need electricity, you can carry it with you because it is light, and you only need a couple of other people to play with. We should have a deck in our bug out bag.”
After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided “why not?” I’ve recently read several articles on bug out bags and I have yet encountered this advice, yet it seems like such basic common sense to me. If my family ends up at an emergency shelter or in the hills living in a tent, we could use a little fun and variety. Electronics need to be powered and can be fragile, and board games or sports equipment are too bulky. Any card game like Uno, Skip Bo, or just a standard deck of playing cards will add very little weight to your pack. They are also fairly durable and can be used by almost all ages. Other games like Pass the Pig or even a travel chess set are small and inexpensive and can easily fit into a bug out bag.
Practice What Matters
I grew up around guns and have done a fair amount of hunting and plinking with long barrel guns. But it wasn’t until recently that my wife and I bought handguns and took a concealed carry class together. Of course we wanted to be very open with our children about guns in the home and set some safety rules beforehand. My son’s response was as follows:
“Well if you want us to all be safe with guns, then we all need to go and practice shooting. You can’t hit a zombie in the head at 20 yards if you don’t practice.”
As macabre as this analogy sounds, I completely agree with my son. Guns are powerful, extremely specific-uses tools that demands respect and requires practice. And while I hope and pray none of my children ever need to point a weapon at another person, I know it is a possibility, especially if the world goes to hell in a hand basket. I am very grateful they have all been to the range a few times and can effectively use a gun.
And the truth surrounding practicing your prepping skills is not limited to self-defense or hunting. Has your family ever drilled grabbing the bug-out bag(s) and taking off for an overnighter, even if it is just to grandma’s back yard! If you have food storage, have you actually tried living off it for a month? When I was laid-off in 2009, we gave our food storage a test run for a month. It was not pretty but we didn’t starve, and some excellent lessons were learned. Now we practice one week each month (also a good way to rotate your supplies).
Point to learn? Practice makes perfect, so make your practice count.
A few nights ago I was flipping through the channels and came across George Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead”; the film that has inspired nearly 50 years of zombie movies and television shows. I haven’t seen the movie in years and stopped for a moment to watch. A few minutes later my son comes walking through the family room, pauses for a moment and says, “You know we have that on DVD?”
“Ya. You can learn a lot of what not to do from that show,” he said with a bit of a laugh and a strong emphasis on the word “not”.
“Hey, I’m going to Jordan’s house to play basketball,” and out the door he went. Honestly, I was glad he didn’t stay to finish the movie.
Everyone has opinions and outlooks on what the future hold. Natural disasters, societal collapse and epidemics have happened before and will happen, at some point, again. I think my teenager understands this and has dealt with it in his own way. I think that shows some insight and maturity on his part. So while I’m not going to buy an old armored truck and convert it into a Zombie Killing-mobile, I am going to keep an open mind and listen to different perspectives on preparing for the future, even those as fanciful as the Zombie Apocalypse.