Shambling and mumbling - zombies and teenagers have a lot in common, actually

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.


Lynn said…
Oh, so sad, and happy, and sad. I was just thinking of a post in my head yesterday about how I am totally okay with the kids getting older and moving on and it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Then I read about Angus hiding out in the basement and I get sniffly and want to hug my babies. WAH.

On the plus side, though, I love the Walking Dead story. We kind of feel this way about the reality shows we picked up this summer - Amazing Race and Masterchef - the first time ever we had a TV show that the whole family wanted to watch and then discuss. Definitely find your bonding where you can!
StephLove said…
I think this is the sweetest post about zombies I have ever read.

I have a plan to watch Buffy the Vampire slayer from start to end again in 4 or 5 years once J seems old enough to handle it. Then I won't have to try to find scraps of time when the kids are asleep and I don't want to be, too. Anyone who wants can join me can and I'm hoping they all will.
Julie said…
right now we still do movie and pizza fridays. don't know how long i can hold onto that one, but i will hold on with gnashing teeth if i must.
Maggie said…
Yes! Oldest already spends so much time in school, at sports, with neighborhood kids, I don't see him as much as I used to and I also kind of miss him. Last year we started letting him watch The Amazing Race with us (husband and I, Youngest at 4 is still too young) and it's been really fun to have a show that we gather to watch together and talk about and enjoy. We also read together for 1/2 an hour at night if we can swing it. It's nice just to be in the same room as him sometimes.

It's been interesting having two kids, for a variety of reasons, of course, but in particular, because I swear my kids came out of the womb very differently with respect to fear. Oldest is physically cautious - he likes sports, but not ones that involve going fast like skiing or skateboarding but has never had fears about stories or TV or movies. I can count on one hand the number of times he's come into our room at night with a bad dream. Youngest, on the other hand, is physically fearless. She will climb anything, fling herself off of anywhere, keep up with the much older brother and his friends. However, she has bad dreams often and even very mild stories scare her - for example she had to stop watching and episode of Hello Kitty (?!) because it was too scary. They just came wired differently.
Nicole said…

Awww, this is so sweet. Love it. Also - the PVR - I fought it too and I do not know what the hell was wrong with me. I'd give the PVR a blowjob every day if I could. I can't though, so I just look at it with hearts in my eyes.
Sarah McCormack said…
Just got a PVR 2 wks ago- loving it!! bye bye VHS tapes.

My son, 11, and I have spent this year watching 6 seasons of LOST together. we have only 5 episodes (of 120) left. I will be sad when it's done. partly cause I have been warned that the ending sucks, and partly because I have so enjoyed this time together with my guy. shared time is precious however we find it!!!

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