Angus is thirteen. He's not stuck to my side like he used to be, voicing every thought. He no longer wants to help me do everything from fastening my bra to unloading the dishwasher. When my parents are about to see him, they take bets on how many questions he can answer with the single-word statement "Good".
Two or three years ago we asked him if he would mind switching bedrooms with Eve, since his was twice the size of hers and she spent more time in her room than he did. He said sure, so we got a nice tv to go with the video game console that he'd bought with his birthday and Christmas money and a nice beanbag chair and put them all in the basement.
Now he spends a LOT of time in the basement. He does his homework down there. He has his chill time down there. On week-ends and holidays he often sleeps down there, in the bed in Matt's man-cave. I don't really mind this - he works hard on schoolwork and sports; some days he leaves the house at six-fifty a.m. for volleyball practice and doesn't get home until around four. He does any chores assigned to him without complaining (much). I just sort of miss him sometimes.
A few years ago, my husband brought home a PVR. I thought it was stupid, that we were doing perfectly well with VHS tapes and it was a huge waste of money. Now I LOVE the PVR with a slavish, passionate devotion. I love that whenever Matt and I have a Friday evening free we can watch two Doctor Whos and a How I Met Your Mother, or three Modern Familys and a Big Bang Theory, all without having to track down the right tape from the right day and hope that stuff hasn't gotten accidentally erased or recorded over. But partly because of that, and partly because of crazy sports schedules, we don't tend to be a family who watches tv together. When the kids were younger we had Sunday dinner on tv tables and watched the Wonderful World of Disney like I did when I was young, and when Matt's away sometimes the kids and I watch the Simpsons, but we don't really have a standing date.
Angus used to get scared of things on TV or in the movies a lot. We had to leave Finding Nemo because when the swimmer in the big diving mask popped up and captured Nemo in the net Angus freaking freaked. We had to screen all movies very carefully for many years. Eve was fine in Ice Age 2 - Angus was a basket case and spent most of the movie with his head in my armpit. He's gotten better, but he's still cautious; before we went to see Captain Phillips, which he had selected, he asked me some very specific questions about what kinds of injuries might occur in the movie.
So imagine my surprise when I came home from a week-end away last year and he announced that he had watched Seasons one and two of The Walking Dead on Netflix. EXCUSE ME? Some kind of developmental leap dovetailed nicely with some kind of lapse of parental judgment or attention on the part of my husband, I guess.
When the new season started being advertised, Angus asked if he could watch it with me. I hesitated. Was it inappropriate? Did I want to include someone else in something that was kind of a private pleasure? Would he ask a bunch of questions and be annoying? Then I thought, if my son wants to watch a zombie show with me, what the heck am I waiting for? And if my friend Collette can watch Game of Thrones with her 14-year-old son without prescreening, what the hell am I whining about?
So now Angus and I watch The Walking Dead together every Sunday night. There is no talk of PVR-ing it to watch later - it must be watched at the very moment it is available to be watched. For the season premiere, Matt and Eve were away for Thanksgiving and we were alone. Angus started out cocky, intoning "in a world without haircuts..." over the opening scenes, but by the end of the episode he was on the couch with his head in my lap. Then he announced that he was sleeping with me. He followed me up to my room and asked if I was going to take a shower before bed. "Yes," I said. "Do you want to come with me?" "No!" he said "uh, just maybe leave the door open a crack."
We watch the show. We talk about the characters. We wonder certain people do what they do - sometimes we argue about someone's motivations. We find different things different levels of disturbing. And we talk about all of it. Then we PVR Talking Dead (the after-show) to watch the day after.
Sometimes you just have to watch so carefully, or your bonding opportunities will sail right by.