Filling the Void
April 22, 2010
The Cheungs watch a lot of TV. No really, a LOT of TV. I keep up with an embarrassing number of sitcoms and dramas and reality shows and sitting down for an episode of Lost or Glee is what Phillip and I call Date Night. (Sad but true.) We have a TV in our bedroom, even though countless friends advised against this when we got married. I almost always know what show people are referencing on Twitter. And I'll just say it: my kids watch a lot of TV too.
NOT THAT I'M PROUD OF THIS! I mean, while I allow and sometimes even encourage my kids to be on a first name basis with Super Why (they're learning their letters!) and Kai-lan (they're learning Chinese!) and the Backyardigans (I kind of like their theme song!), I am fully aware that they watch a LOT of TV and that the experts say this is Not Good.
But! Kids woke up unbearably early in the morning? Take them downstairs and turn on PBSKids. Kids won't eat lunch? Turn on the TV and they'll shovel it in, their eyes glazed over. Kids fighting? The TV's right there! Turn it on! Kid won't nap? Maybe he'll watch a show. Kids driving us crazy during dinner? Maybe they'll quiet down if we put on a DVD. Kids need to wind down before dinner? A show will do the trick! It got to the point that at every meal time, and oh God I am so embarrassed to admit this, Molly would look at me expectantly, fork in the air, and say, "Show?"
I felt bad about this, but I was never sure how to go about changing things. The TV was just THERE! Our living space in the old house was one big room and you could see the television from every angle. It was right next to our dining room table. We could reach over and turn it on without the aid of a remote. And you KNOW I am a take-the-path-of-least-resistance kind of mom! BAD COMBINATION!
Then we moved and I have to say, the absolute biggest difference in our lives isn't the fully fenced back yard or the separate bedrooms for the kids, it's the relegating of the television to the family room downstairs. There is no TV anywhere near our eating space. Even if we wanted to watch, there's nowhere to even put it. I knew this when we were moving, I even looked forward to it thinking this would be the time I finally got control of the TV watching, but I was nervous. I depended on that television, you guys.
But now, only two weeks into our new house, the TV has taken on treat-like status. It is not a given that we will watch a show during breakfast. It is not a given that we will watch TV when it's raining and there's nothing else to do. My kids now eat in front of a giant window where they watch airplanes and cars and neighbors and dogs and these things appear to be just as entertaining as Elmo. We did put an iPod dock in the kitchen so we can listen to kid music (or podcasts when they're napping and I'm cleaning up - The Moth is my favorite!) and that's been really fun AND guilt-free! We no longer use the TV as a bargaining tool during dinner and sometimes I can't really believe that we're doing it. That we're surviving without the TV.
Which isn't to say we don't let the kids watch it. I mean, we are who we are! Our decision to give up cable was only made once we realized we could still find all our favorite shows on the internet! The kids still watch a show every once in a while before bedtime and you bet I turned on the TV yesterday when there were no naps and beastly behavior. GOD BLESS MY TELEVISION.
But we were watching way too much and it turns out that all we had to do was move it out of the way. Move it out of the place where we spend the most time. And it hasn't been this horrible, scary, painful thing I imagined. We're doing just fine. We've found other ways to amuse ourselves. In fact, I find that I LIKE watching less TV and that, my friends, is not something I EVER thought I'd say.