The other night Jack rented Shaun of the Dead. And since we're bad with the rentals and keeping them too long and my wallet just hemorrhages late fees (please don't tell me about Netflix: I know), it had been hanging around the house for awhile, stinking the place up, as it were, waiting for a time when Jackson either wasn't around or was asleep at the same time that we were awake, which turned out to be precisely never. So after letting it sit on the table for four days Jack just finally stuck it in the DVD player at dinnertime one night and we decided to see how scary it might be and therefore how much of it we could watch with a little kid around.

Here's an opportunity to tell you about what a lax disciplinarian I can be when it suits me. And it usually suits me, oh, around dinner time. Because I like to eat my dinner, and Jack likes to eat his, especially when he's spent upwards of thirty minutes putting together some typically spectacular and occasionally vertical meal. So when Jackson wanders away from his half-eaten dinner-compromise of macaroni-and-cheese and sliced apples to go play with his bat cave or watch Popeye in the bedroom, we got into what turns out to be the bad habit of not stopping him, and pretending, for ten or fifteen minutes, that we are two adults alone in an apartment sharing a meal and speaking in paragraphs.

But it turns out that every time he goes over to play at the neighbors' and they invite him to stay for dinner, he thinks it's perfectly normal to throw his napkin on the floor and run off to play before he's finished his milk. This habit is being systematically beaten out of him by the kids next door, ages 10, 11, and 12, and their mother, the part-time elementary school lunch lady.

So Jack puts in the movie and Jackson says, "What's this about?" And I say, "zombies." And Jackson's all, "Zombies! I love zombies! I like it when the gun shoots their heads and they go ptchew!" Lax area of discipline #2: when I take Jackson to the pool hall, I let him play the game where you try to shoot attacking zombies in the head. You know, the video machine with the two guns attached to it with metal pay-phone cords. Ptchew! Ptchew! Ptchew!

Now, what's interesting about watching a zombie movie with a little kid, even a kid who's familiar with the genre after watching several episodes of Scooby Doo, is that the conventions of horror movies, and especially comic send-up horror movies, will suck in this small child in exactly the way we grownups are too jaded to be sucked in anymore. So you see the silhouette behind the shower curtain and you, the grownup, go, "Ha, ha, there's a guy in the shower, what twist on Psycho are we going to get this time?" But the little kid unfamiliar with horror movie conventions goes, "NO! NO! DON'T LOOK IN THE SHOWER! AAAAAAAAHHHH! TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF! IT'S TOO SCARY!" while his parents dive for the remote.

So we got as far as the roommate-in-the-shower scene in Shaun of the Dead and then we turned it off and watched a nature show and the next day I returned it to the video store. We'll try again when Jackson's, like, eight. It's only five years. So don't tell me how the movie ends. Even though I could probably kind of figure it out.