Back in the day we had, for reasons too many and virtuous to describe, an iron-clad no-TV-during-the week rule. Then came Christmas 2005, when Youngest asked – make that, begged – for the DVD collection of the first season of Lost. Santa, unthinking fellow that he is, obliged. Cut to Youngest and I, lying on the couch for literally days on end. He was entranced, transfixed, enthralled. All I kept thinking was, “TV show? Acid flashback? TV show? Acid flashback?” Anyway, if we averaged four episodes a day and there were 22 episodes in the first season, well, you can do the math. I can’t, I’m still coming down.
So that’s how the no-TV-during-the-week-rule was demoted to a one-TV-show-during-the week rule. Oldest was still home at the time, and he chose to watch 24 which I watched with him until one too many White House aides talked on his non-secure cell phone with his evil terrorist master while still in the Oval office with the President. Middle watches an eclectic mix of shows which includes Mythbusters, Futureweapons and…is there something called Stunt-Junkies-Gone-Wild? Needless to say, none of them are prime time fare so he wasn’t really affected by the change of my stony heart. So it was just Youngest and me, curling up together on the couch every Wednesday at nine – except, of course, when Lost, like the infamous Oceanic Air Flight 815, mysteriously plummeted off the Tivo radar and just, well, disappeared.
Here we are in February 07 and Lost is back from whatever rehab it goes to, with the sole purpose, it seems to me, of destroying any vestigal remnants of my self-image as a good enough mother. Why do I say this? Why do I shake my fist at the whimsy and evil caprice of the TV Gods? Because Lost is now on at 10PM! I mean, come on. Can somebody up there, just once, cut me a freaking break?
When Youngest informed me of the new time slot, my first reaction was panic. It must be because he is my last, or because he is so sweet, but my heart clutched at the thought of the colossal tsunami of disappointment headed my way. But then I remembered one of the great tricks of the mothering trade. I shook my head, sorrowfully. This particular head shake was perfectly calibrated to accomplish the following: first, to adequately express the I’ll-climb-Mt. Everest-without-oxygen-before-I’ll-let-you-stay-up-until-11-on-a-school-night impossibility of his watching the show on Wednesday nights AND, and this is where it’s really diabolical, to make it look as if I am really sad about that fact. With one magic head shake, I am transformed from authority figure sadistically asserting her mercurial whims, to the comrade in arms sharing his pain.
It all was going, most beautifully, according to plan. He didn’t put up a big fight or, worse, let his eyes well with unshed tears. He was the very definition of the word stoic. Until. Until. Until I was blind-sided by my supposed friend A, the mother of one of Youngest’s favorite pals, S. “Only for the first night,” she promised from behind the wheel before screeching out of the parking lot. “OK,” I said to Youngest as I waved the dust from my face, “If S is watching it for the first night, so can you, but after that, it’s all Tivo, all the time.”
We watched – or should I say attempted to cram the increasingly outrageous plot developments into something resembling a narrative – the first episode. As I ushered Youngest to bed, by which I mean I nodded in the direction of his bedroom as I staggered to my own, I lifted my eyes to the heavens and, yes, thanked the TV Gods for their schedule change. That show is really only just barely watchable on Tivo. All was well in the land of compromised parenting positions.
NOT. As he climbed into the car after school yesterday, Youngest informed me that my soon-to-be- ex-friend A had caved, yes, caved and S was now allowed to watch Lost in perpetuity. At. 10. PM. I immediately got on the horn to confirm her treachery.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m a terrible mother,” she said upon hearing my ominous tone. “It’s just that I’ve been so hard on him lately, and its something we get to do together, and I told him if he ever complained even a tiny bit about getting up on Thursday morning it would all be over. Do you hate me?”
The truth is, I don’t. So much of the time, I’m the one who doles out chores, yells “For Chrissakes, GET OUT OF BED”, and is known for setting what some (okay, my husband and all three children) might consider unreasonable demands pretty much ‘round the clock. It gets old, being the taskmaster. Sometimes you want to be the fun one. Sometimes, you gotta make sure to create memories that will make them smile many years hence. Sometimes you have to give them some ammunition to use in the great social battle that is middle school. Sometimes you just have to give them what they really, really want. So I caved too. And last night, on the dot of his usual bedtime, Youngest and I settled in on the couch. He watched with the level of intensity only seen in those who are heading to seventh grade the next morning with a gleeful sense of superiority over their classmates with better mothers. I, on the other hand, fought a losing battle against sleep. At some point, I toppled over, and only roused myself as he clicked off the TV.
Fearful of losing his awesome privilege, Youngest literally shot out of bed this morning and went sunnily off to school to lord over his friends his knowledge of what happened to – what’s the guy’s name who ran into Jack on the stadium stairs back in the first season? – him.
So that is two down, twenty to go. Truthfully, the thought of twenty more episodes makes me wish my head would explode. In fact, there are only two things on the face of this earth that could entice me to watch another season of Lost: the look on Youngest’s face when I caved and Daniel’s play-by-play.
OK, here’s your chance to make me feel less a flagrant failure of a mother. What TV shows do you watch with your child, and why?