Let’s talk about Dex.

This post was Jill’s idea.

“Hey Jeff, why don’t you write a post about Dexter’s dad?”
“What? Oh, yeah . . . that might be interes—”

Dexter is a Showtime show about a killer who only stalks and hunts other killers (which really makes him more of a vigilante and less of a serial killer but whatever*). I’ve referenced it before, but it’s not like you’d remember. Since you can’t remember something you never read.

According to the show, Dex didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to express his homicidal bloodlust by killing killers. He wasn’t drawn to killers the same way Bundy was drawn to college co-eds. Dex was coached. By his dad.

So you must be thinking that Dex’s dad is also some sort of psychopath who lives in the shadows. Nope. Before he died, Harry was a Miami cop. One of those ultra-good cops who are willing to break the law if it means getting the bad guy. Does that make sense? Probably not, I wrote it.

You see, when Dex was growing up, Harry recognized that the boy wasn’t right. After fruitlessly begging young Dex to pleeeeease not kill, Harry decided to go with plan B: channeling his son’s bloodlust in the most socially acceptable/practical way possible: by targeting those who deserved to die but somehow escaped justice (like Casey Anthony).

Harry set about creating a code, a list of rules that helped Dex avoid detection while relieving his abhorrent need and sparing innocent lives. For some reason, I’m thinking there were 20 rules in this code. Throughout the series, Dex sticks to it religiously. The rules include creating a believable “cover life,” thoroughly vetting targets, not sharing his secret with anyone, and so on. Really, I have no idea what’s exactly in the code. But it has worked for 8 seasons.

The point is: even though Dexter’s need to kill (what Dex refers to as his “Dark Passenger”) went against every ounce of Harry’s being, Harry still supported his son. He didn’t approve of who he saw Dexter becoming, but he accepted him. He didn’t understand him, but he didn’t fight him or punish him for who he needed to be. He worked with Dex, guiding him to find a way to make him a part of the world.

And that’s what Jill asked me to point out here. That’s what she cites when she wants to remind me that our kids are their own people. They’re going to be who they are.

“If Dex’s dad could accept his son for who he is—a freaking serial killer—then surely you can forgive Ian’s quirks!”

After the eye-roll, and the inner dialogue that includes the unspoken “Dexter is a TV show filled with TV characters and scripted by TV writers for TV viewers. Harry doesn’t exist. Neither does Dex. So why don’t you lecture the TV? Mkay?**” I always back off. Because I agree. She’s being an advocate for my kids and OF COURSE I want to agree with her. Because I know that these three amazing humans need my support, love, and guidance unconditionally. Even if that means they won’t conform to the ideas I carry in my head of who I think they should be.

I need to help them figure out who they are and how that matters. If that means writing a code, I’ll be sure to post it here too.

And now that you’re rolling your eyes at me, understand that this isn’t about hiding the bodies of my kids’s victims. Or creating a code that allows them to accumulate a body count. It’s an extreme example of acceptance. It’s a reminder to let my little ones develop without cramming them into a prefabricated box.

It might look like they’re coloring outside the lines until you understand that they’re drawing their own lines. And they’re coloring inside those lines very well.


*I know that it’s his Dark Passenger that differentiates Dexter from vigilantes. I know justice is a nice side effect of his killing and not his ultimate goal. His goal is to kill people. I know these things.

**I CANNOT STAND “mkay?” I put it in this post just to piss me off.


  1. This is a great post. Harry’s acceptance of Dexter is a great example of how we should accept people’s choices, whether we agree with them or not. Guiding them instead of judging them; you’ve combined Dexter and understanding. Good job.

    • jeffandjill

      09/22/2013 at 9:44 am

      Thanks. I’m always thrilled when I can justify watching TV dramas about serial killers. And I’m always humbled when I’m shown ways to be a better dad. And Dexter.

  2. HAHAHAHAHA!! How do you feel about “meh” a relatively new term, “meh” for some reason tickles my funny bone.

    I believe the best parents are the ones who unconditionally love. My ex husband still does not understand the concept. You also have to keep your eyes open. I love my kids more than I believed it possible to feel the emotion.

    Not that I believe I hold any special parenting magic, I am certianly proud of the people they have grown into. (both being technically adults now I guess…) A few rules I used were to make sure they knew I loved them. More than anyone in the world. To always tell me, even if they were afraid I would get mad, start the conversation with ” mommy don’t get mad…” and I promised to not fly off the handle. That is a major reason for children to lie. They really don’t want us mad at them. That worked. also scaird the shit out of me when the conversation started like that, but I kept my promise. I might have shown them dissapointment, but I did not go off on them.

    It is hard as an adult to remember how it felt to be the child. If you can put yourself back there it is amazing how you will be able to communicate with them.

    • jeffandjill

      10/03/2013 at 10:00 am

      All so very true! It’s so tough to remember all the things we know we should do when things are emotional. That’s why writing posts like these and reading comments like yours are important for me. They keep me on track. Because you’re right. I love my kids more than I thought possible. I just have to remember to act like it.

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