Growing up, I always watched certain shows with my mother and whichever siblings were still at home. I have, like most Gen X-ers, fond memories, of watching family-friendly prime-time comedies like “Growing Pains,” “Family Ties,” and as much as it pains me to mention given the things he’s done, “The Cosby Show.” But nowadays between YouTube and Netflix, Hulu and Discovery, not to mention our crazy after-school schedules, we rarely watch anything together as a whole family. So this summer, my 13-year-old son and I decided to watch a show just for ourselves. Forget looking for something for all five of us; we were in this together.
Using iTunes gift cards, my son purchased the entire first season of “The Flash,” and we started watching it after his younger siblings went to bed, or while they were at camp. It took about two weeks, and it meant giving up an hour or two of reading or working or cleaning up, but it was worth it. Here are five reasons why the experience encouraged me to share more pop-culture experiences with my teen:
1. Running Commentary: In between episodes, and sometimes during the show (hey, it’s our living room, not a movie theater), my son would make funny comments, and we’d crack up about things like the fact that Iris is always showing up at the police precinct, or that Captain Singh rarely caught a break, or that Barry is rarely shown shirtless like Oliver is on “Arrow” (OK, that last comment was mine, but my son agreed and added Barry was more of an every guy than “playboy billionaire” Oliver).
2. Active Watching: I know a lot of families don’t think screen time is quality time, but that wasn’t our experience at all. It wasn’t just the running jokes or observations but also the predictions and snack sharing and general companionship of watching the show together that made it fun.
3. Joint Fandom: It’s not like we’re ready to cosplay our way to Comic-Con or write mother-son fanfic (um, no), but watching “The Flash” together gave us a joint fandom to share. Sure, we already had “Harry Potter” and “Percy Jackson” and a ton of movies we both love, but this is the first fandom we’ve joined at the same time. We watched the trailer for season 2, the bonus features, the Comic-Con panel interviews, etc. together, because we are THAT excited.
4. Getting Over Embarrassment: This is obviously more for me than for him, but knowing the show had mostly chaste kissing scenes was less awkward than taking him to a PG-13 movie, and occasionally led to more commentary (like, “Mom, isn’t it odd to kiss someone in the middle of your workplace?”). That diffused the situation and made it easy just to let it go and realize he’s growing up, and it’s OK if he sees people snog on screen.
5. What’s Next: Since we had such a good time binge-watching “The Flash,” we’ve already decided to DVR the series and watch it together. Having a teen who still wants to do anything with you is a good, good thing, so whether it’s bike riding with his dad or watching a show or a movie with me, we’ll take it!