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Love Means Watching The Walking Dead With My Son

I am not a fan of what I have termed “TV shows that stress me out.” Breaking Bad?  Yes, great show but it stressed me out something fierce, so I quit. I stopped watching Game of Thrones after the poor kid was pushed out of the window in the first episode of the first season. (Spoiler alert: I’ve been told he survives. Sorry if I ruined it for you.)

Week after week, year after year, I’ve read the posts on Facebook about The Walking Dead. I’ve listened to conversations about the show while waiting in line for coffee. Sounds like you all just love it. But knowing the basic premise—zombie apocalypse, blood and guts, zombies chasing humans, human race desperate to survive—I have taken a hard pass.

Too stressful. I don’t do zombies.

My teen boys discovered the show a couple years ago on Netflix and binge-watched all of the seasons until they were caught up. They kept telling me how good it was and how I should watch it, to which I’d reply, “Nope, I’m good. Wanna watch The Office or Friends? I’m your girl.”

Lately, my 15-year-old son Sean has been very persistent in his quest to get me to watch The Walking Dead with him. He’s asked me at least once a week for the last couple months, slowly wearing me down until I was no longer simply saying, “No.” I started making up excuses like, “Let me get the house clean first,” or “Once I’m caught up with work, I’ll watch with you.”

Cue Harry Chapin singing “Cats in the Cradle.”

And then my clever boy got me. I was lounging on the couch, reading my book one afternoon, and he asked me about my newfound interest in the show Parks and Recreation.I said, “Oh, Sean! You’d love it! It’s kinda like The Office. I’ll watch the first episode with you right now.” He said, “Nah, let’s watch The Walking Dead instead.”

Checkmate.

I had to hand it to him. He’s good. I was cornered, no way out. He had caught me at my laziest.

I then gave myself a little silent pep talk that went like this:

“Kellie, your youngest son who just turned 15 is asking you—YOU!—to watch a TV show with him! No, it may not be the kind of show you like, but he loves it, and he wants to share it with you! You are stupid if you don’t pounce on this opportunity. Someday when these boys are out of the house, you will yearn for the days when they still wanted to hang out with you.”

So, with a resigned sigh, I said, “Okay. Turn it on.”

The episode played while I squirmed on the couch, alternating which eye I closed, making the face we make when we teach our kids how to drive. You know what I’m talking about.

“Why did this happen?” I asked. “Was there a virus that turned them into zombies?”

“Just watch, Mom,” my son said. “They’ll explain it all later.”

“Okay, so who killed all the poor people in the hospital and why are their bodies lined up outside?”

Mooooooom, they’ll explain it, but not in this episode.”

I had so many questions that I was sure he regretted asking me to watch at all. I survived, but yes, this show stresses me out. And no, I will not be watching this one on my own. Ever.

After that day, Sean did ask me to watch more. So far, I’ve made it through four episodes, but not without a lot of prodding and more “Cats in the Cradle” guilt flooding my brain. This is a small-bites show—no bingeing for this mom.

Time spent and memories made with our teens can take all forms. I don’t know about Sean, but I will always remember how, during the last few minutes of my first viewing of The Walking Dead, while Rick was trying to escape the zombies in Atlanta, I was shrieking and screaming, “Go! Go! Go, Rick! Go!” All the while, my boy laughed at me, rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, chill. Chilllll.”

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I can’t tell you how relieved I was when this same kid asked me the other night if the new season of The Bachelor was starting. We sat down and watched the first episode together, laughing at all the melodrama and antics. Now there’s a show that will never stress me out!

Kellie Smith

Kellie Smith lives in Puyallup, Washington, with her husband, two sons, and their American Bulldog, Phoebe. She’s an official court reporter by day, a voracious reader by night, and always a hockey mom.