Another hot-button mom topic, like breast feeding and sleep training and homeschooling

Sheryl of Paper Napkin and Kyran of Notes to Self are talking about national TV Turnoff Week, so I thought I would oblige Kyran’s email plea to me to stand with her in justifying The Tube.

We go through seasons of tv viewing around here. There was a time when I was depressed and sleep deprived and Ruthie woke me up at five and six a.m. every morning, that we watched Finding Nemo many times in a row (I won’t say how many) just to get through until nap time.

A couple months ago I went through a no-tv phase because I felt like I was supposed to think they were watching too much. I also have several friends whose kids never watch tv, and silly me wanted to challenge myself to do the same. But I think it’s a little like trying to give birth naturally in a hospital – in the end, if the epidural is an option, you f&*$ing take it.

And now? Now I am perfectly happy with undefined rules of tv viewing, at least as it pertains to the amount of time spent. In my current routine, I tend to sleep until the kids wake me up when Bryan is gone, then I let them snuggle in my bed to watch t.v. until I’ve had a few cups of coffee and a shower downstairs. When Bryan is home I try to get up early to have coffee with him, then I read and shower before the kids wake up.

If I have the energy to engage the kids, or if they are playing well together, I keep the tv off. I’ve organized many of their activities to replace tv, such as play-doh at the kitchen table while I’m cooking dinner, or beads strung on pipe cleaners, or the train table in Thomas’ room, or the Polly Pockets in Ruthie’s room. But truth be told, turning on the t.v. is a lot easier than refereeing skirmishes or dealing with clinginess – especially during the ‘witching hour’ of late afternoon. And, as Murphy’s Law would have it, they will play with these things all day long until I need them to so I can make dinner.

But it helps that the tv is in the basement family room so it is not looming in front of them at all times, taunting. We have to make a point of going down there to watch it, and only recently have I been able to trust Thomas to be down there without my supervision. It also helps that my kids love movies, and that we have a digital cable DVR recorder, and that my kids are still young enough that I can control what they watch, and that our elaborate entertainment system is so complicated that only the Secret Society for Tech Toys can operate the labyrinth of remotes.

They rarely watch commercials and don’t understand what is happening when they come across one. I use this to my advantage – at night when we snuggle in my bed and watch Emeril Live on the Food Network, Ruthie thinks it is over when the commercials come on so I take that cue and put them to bed. We’ll see how long I can get away with that.

Ruthie is not an engaged tv viewer – she will not scream or point or respond in any way to Dora’s questions. She just sits on the couch, sucking her thumb. So, when we have all day tv and pajama days, Ruthie is generally inactive for most of that time, which is definitely NOT something I want for my children. I’ve learned there will be grave consequences to me if my energetic extrovert spends too much time sitting still and un-engaged.

But I do need pockets of time to recharge (more on that in another post), and I know I can get that if the kids are watching tv.

So for now, while my kids are two and four, I control what they watch and when, and this generally has to do with my own level of sanity. I tend to evaluate it in terms of the whole day. For instance, if we spent the entire morning at the park with friends, I will be more likely to let them watch tv in the afternoon, because I think a little down time is important for everyone.

I will also sometimes make a bowl of popcorn in the evening and sit with them to watch a movie before bed. To me, this can be quality family time, as it was for me growing up. I remember snuggling on the couch with Gordy, watching The Cosby Show while my mom sprawled a project on the floor or prepared her lessons plans for the next day (she was a preschool teacher). We talked, we snuggled, we engaged with one another, we connected. I have very fond memories of family tv viewing.

But in reality, after all the bullshit smoke screens of good parenting I put up, they watch more than I ever intended them to, and they watch out of my convenience more than for their entertainment. But I’m okay with that. Ruthie still asks to watch tv constantly, and throws a fit if I say no, but she’ll generally find something else that’s interesting to do.

And now that Spring is here, and the weather is turning nice, we are outside in the garden or at the park, and will soon be making trips to the beach. I’m generally not concerned about tv in the midst of all that.

So we will likely not participate in the turn-off week, and I will likely always feel like my kids watch too much.

What about you? What are your family’s habits? Will you take the turn-off challenge? Leave a comment or link to your own blog!

4 thoughts on “Another hot-button mom topic, like breast feeding and sleep training and homeschooling”

  1. Right now, the big guy is on day 2 of an all-out TV ban. He gets to watch again tomorrow. What happened was:
    – on Saturday, after 5 hours of cartoons, knew he was not supposed to watch any more and then snuck in, closed the door, and watched. A ban for the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday was decreed.
    – on Sunday he returned from an outing and took advantage of the transition by sneaking in to watch. A ban for Monday was decreed.
    – OK now its monday and the boy is a very big fat caterpillar. Seriously, though, it feels like I am being punished too! But the best thing about no tv is there are no fights regarding turning it off. Looking forward to getting back to normal, without losing valuable face.

  2. I think something that some, say, southerners maybe, don’t understand is: it rains here. A lot. Sometimes going outside, or feeling motivated and energetic in the midst of 25 gray, cloudy, rainy days in a row, is, well, not possible! Sometimes tv and movies turn into a cultural thing based off of climate! Maybe that’s why Seattle is such an artsy place; music and movies are the only things you can do when it rains months on end! It’s like an escape to a sunnier place! I find in the darkest months I tend to pick movies that are set in a hot place, or during the summer.

    It’s just like exercise. All those women down in California can talk about getting off your ass to go running everyday. Which is great when the sun shines everyday. But when 6 am comes around and its 40 degrees and pouring, there is something about a nice tv morning and a cup of coffee that seems much more appealing than jogging in a poncho.

    Yours truly, Ramble Queen

  3. It just gets worse. This weekend we moved the spare tv set to our bedroom–that which I said I would never do! How the mighty have fallen.

    Our weather is gorgeous right now, and nothing on the tube can hold a candle to digging up the backyard. In a month or two when school is out and the southern heat is on, it will be a different story.

  4. We also are not participating in the no tv week. I don’t know how I would survive. Josh watches it in the morning, Eli watches the recorded Spongebob’s of the previous day when he gets home from Kindergarten, and Hannah, well if I would let her, would watch the Food Network (aka her food channel) all day. We also have a DVR and when we watch regular television, my kids constantly yell to us “fORWARD” to let us know the commercials or on, unfortunately, when you are watching live tv, you can’t forward them. As much as I hate to admit it, our tv is on most of the day. Like right now, it is on, but no one is really watching it…hmm, maybe I’ll turn it off.

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