“Ossie,” I intoned, making clear the fact that he was speaking out of turn. "I know you did. For a fact, and lying to me isn’t going to make this any better.”
His eyes darted back and forth, as if looking for an escape hatch inside his own head. He was formulating a plan, something to get out of this situation, and then he stopped. His brow furrowed.
“Wait,” he said, sitting back upright. And then he followed up with possibly the sweetest thing he ever asked me, given the context. “What’s porn?”
I couldn’t help but smile. His defense hadn’t been self-preservation so much as it was genuine confusion. “It’s videos and pictures of people having sex,” I told him. He slumped back into embarrassment. “Oh. Then, yes. I looked at porn.”
A silence hung in the air between us as I tried to figure out where to go from there. He looked at me, eyebrows up and eyes wide open, on alert for whatever would come next. The past winter had torn up the road, and his still baby-fatted cheeks bounced along with the car as we headed back towards our house. The anticipation of my response was clearly getting to him.
“Are you gonna say anything else?”
“To be honest, I hadn’t really thought this far ahead,” I told him. “I only planned as far as this, telling you I knew.”
Of course, a few million things had gone through my head in the week since my discovery. I wasn’t looking for what I found when I went snooping through his cheapie Android tablet. Oscar loved video games, and lacking the XBox or Playstation consoles he desperately wanted, he'd instead watch videos of other people playing games on YouTube. This is a thing, by the way, if you didn’t know. Teenagers and twentysomethings record themselves playing games like Minecraft or Call of Duty, providing voice-over commentary comprised mostly of irritating screams and laughter. I hated everything about these videos, from the pointlessness of watching them, to the submental chatter, to the fact that my seething lack of understanding of modern trends meant I was getting old and marching closer to irrelevance. But good parenting doesn’t mean you support every dumb thing your kid is into; sometimes it just means you don’t stop them from doing things because you think it’s dumb.
Still, there had to be limits, and Oscar had recently been made aware of the existence of Grand Theft Auto 5 at another house. For a few weeks, it was “GTA 5 this” and “GTA 5 that,” and I made clear that this was not a game he should be watching, let alone playing. I’m definitely no prude, though, and it’s because of this that Oscar couldn’t understand why I was so vehemently opposed to the game. He relentlessly badgered me to give a him a firm age when I’d let him play it. But how do you tell a 9-year-old that there really isn’t an appropriate age to role-play as a drug dealer who shoots prostitutes in the face? Plus, then I’d have to tell him what a prostitute is. I told him to drop it, that it just wasn’t going to happen in my house. When that succeeded in keeping him quiet, I became suspicious.