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!