When Alex was a baby we rarely let him be in the room while a TV was on. We gave any babysitters (i.e., our parents) explicit instructions not to let him watch anything. He never saw a Baby Einstein video in his life. Then, right before his second birthday, we slowly let the TV slip its way into our routine. A cartoon here, a cartoon there. Now Alex is almost three and he watches a little bit of TV almost every day. Usually about 20-30 minutes in the morning and the same at night. But sometimes, lately, it’s more. We started letting him watch Cars and Monsters, Inc. on my laptop (we netflix it) and we’ve created a bit of a, well, monster. He asks if he can watch one or both of those movies at least three times a day. Because we have a new baby and it’s been cold outside and Nick and I have been working like crazy, we’ve been saying yes more often than we like. I try not to feel guilty about this (the kid gets plenty of stimulating non-technology-driven activity) but I do.
Yesterday morning while he was eating his oatmeal and I was packing his lunch for school he asked if he could watch Cars. “Just for a little bit, mom? A few minutes?” Pleeeeeeeeease?” (He knows how to play it.) This has become a standard 8 a.m. request and I decided to take a stand. But I didn’t have the guts to just say no because, well, we’re in a tantrum phase and I was tired and not in the mood so I said, “the TV is not working, bud. Remember that storm last night? With the thunder and lightning”— I made cool sound effects to take his mind off the fact that I was saying no—“well, it hit the pole outside and the TV got zapped.” He knows all about the pole outside since we recently switched from Cablevision to Fios and Oliver the installer was basically a part of our family for the three days it took him to get it done right. In other words, I lied. Completely. And it worked.
ALEX: “No cartoons, mom? No Chugginton? No Oso? Oh my goodness gracious.”
ME: “I know, bud. It’s crazy.”
ALEX: “Mom, can I do play-doh?”
ME: “Absolutely, Al, that’s a great idea.”
OMG, success! I thought about keeping the lie going forever but later that day while I was cooking dinner he climbed up onto the kitchen counter, turned on the TV and said, “Look Mom, it’s fixed!” Damn! But I wasn’t ready to give up. I flipped off the TV before the picture came in completely and mumbled, “yeah, but it’s not ready yet, Al.” Then he asked if he could watch Monsters, Inc. on my laptop. “Your computer isn’t broken Mommy!” (The kid is smart.) I told him that, yes, my computer was not broken but that he could not watch Monsters, Inc. and before he could have a meltdown I asked him if he wanted to wash the dishes (i.e., splash around in the sink and waste a ton of dish soap). It was a little more stressful than having him sit in his high chair tubing out (especially when he kept eyeing the blade from my food processor saying, “When I’m a dad, I can touch that but not yet because it’s dangerous, right mom?”) but it was nice. A whole day without any TV. I felt like mother of the year. But I know it’s not always going to go down like that. And I’m not opposed to a little TV, either. I know people whose kids have never watched TV. Ever. That is so not me.
Alex has learned a lot from the shows he watches. I mean the kid knows what a chinchilla eats (thanks, Diego!) and how to say grandpa in Chinese (thanks, Kai Lan) and he knows that monsters are actually not scary at all (thank you, Sully!). And we still read books to him for a half hour every night. And it’s not like we have a TV in the playroom or either kid’s bedroom or the living room. And we never will. And let’s be honest, when you have a kid as active and chatty as Alex, sometimes you need a little quiet time too and nothing works quite as well as a little boob tube. So I’m not completely against TV at all. It’s just that I worry about the patterns and habits we’re forming now and I just don’t want my kid to be a couch potato later in life. Or to come to expect TV time when really I want it to be more of a treat. So now is the time to lay down the law. Easier said than done, of course….
How about you? What’s your TV watching policy? Do your kids watch more TV than you’d like? Do you feel guilty about this? Any tips for curbing the tubage?
(P.S., I am able to say no to Alex without lying…this morning when he asked for cartoons and movies, I said N.O. and then immediately distracted him by pointing out the “Easter” bunny hopping around our yard. Oh wait, I guess that’s another lie! Crap!)
Oh, and check out Mighty Maggie's post on the same topic. Guess I'm not the only mom struggling with this right now!