Enough With TV

Enough With TV

Here’s why I’m kind of full of it (and “it” stands for “BS” which stands for “BALONEY SAUSAGE” which stands for “nonsense”). At least I was full of nonsense when it came to TV watching.

When I was a new mom to Gloria 15 years ago I was determined to ensure she had virgin eyes and didn’t stare at a TV for hours on-end. I wanted her to look at art, flowers, my face, beautiful blocks, leaves, snow, good food, etc. etc. But TV? Not my kid! At the time, I was annoyed that a close friend of mine was on a campaign to convince me that Baby Einstein videos were so important for new babies to watch because: Einstein. Who doesn’t want their baby to be as whip smart as good old Albert? (Yeah because babies watching TV will make that happen…and probably Albert spent a good deal of time in his crib watching movies. I mean, c’mon people…)

But I didn’t buy into it. I didn’t want to plop my baby in front of a TV so I could get stuff done. Although looking back I probably could have used the help because I spent many late nights awake at 2:00 am trying to get on top of everything as a Super Single Mama. In case you’re not quite sure what a Super Single Mama is, here’s the working definition: A Super Single Mama is a mother who does not have a partner, husband, boyfriend, ex-husband or anyone to help her carry the load of parenting. I did not have every other weekend off of parenting. There was no “dad” for Gloria. There were no child support checks coming in. It was me and me. And also me. I was the only parent every single day, every single hour, every single year. Year after year.

(Truth be told I bristle when friends complain about being a “single parent” because they’re not only getting every Thursday and every other weekend OFF of parenting  to get a break, but they’re also receiving money from their child’s other parent so I find it challenging to drum up a lot of sympathy for their situation.)

Oh and did I mention that by the time my daughter was a year old my sister moved from down the street from me in Iowa to way across the country to LA and my parents moved a 14-hour drive away (from the 3-hour away house they lived in). So, yeah, thanks a lot family! But seriously I adore my family so much and they were living their truths and I was figuring out how to be the super hero of Super Single Mamahood so it all worked out.

I share this only to give you an idea of a) how very much work it is to be a Super Single Mama and b) to reflect on how justified I would have been had I put my child in front of the TV every so often so I could catch a frickin’ break. Now that I’m parenting with someone I am realizing how much work it really, truly was to parent completely alone. Oh my word. Sleeping was optional for about 4 years. I woke up one day and realized I hadn’t gotten my haircut in over 2 years. I used to train for marathons and I’d push my baby for a 10-mile run and stop to nurse her along the route because I was insane. I started a garden and would spend entire Saturdays freezing vegetables for winter use because that’s a good idea. There would be entire Saturdays where all I would do is read book after book after book to Gloria under a tree until my throat was raw and I started slurring my words. I was so alone that it was no problem to plan a weekend where I’d pull Gloria in a wagon for 8 miles around the city going from the Farmer’s Market to the park to the library to the river to pick up my food stamps to another park and finally back home.

But I digress.

 

So Gloria didn’t watch TV until she was 4. I will never forget watching her watch TV for the first time. She was mesmerized and kept looking to me to make sure it was a) okay and b) for real! But of course I had rules around which shows she could watch: she could only watch cartoons on PBS Kids or Seinfeld episodes. That’s it. Also, only TV on days when there was no school the following day, so Friday nights and Saturdays was it for TV viewing.

And that was basically the rule for about 5 years: Weekend TV of either PBS Kids or Seinfeld (and PS: Gloria has the best sense of humor…I wonder why?). Then along came Harold. Harold and Gloria are 10 years apart. In that decade, so very much has changed with how and what children can consume in terms of screen time. I mean we have to call it “screen time” now because it isn’t just TV—there are iPhones and iPads and iMacs and MacBooks in the mix now. We don’t even have an actual TV anymore…we have a screen and projector so things are different.

But my little hippie mama self is not so different. We still have the no-TV-unless-on-the-weekend rule (for both children and adults in this household) but what we didn’t have was any kind of interesting boundary in place for screen time during the weekend.

And this is what happened:

 

When school got out this year there was a binge on screen time. It was crazy. Harold would watch the iPad for HOURS. Netflix show after Netflix show. We got a ton of work done on the house and I caught up on the laundry and I was able to unpack tons of boxes (oh we were in the middle of a move, did I mention that?). So having Harold watch an ungodly amount of TV during the weekend…we’re talking there were 6- to 8-hour TV days at one point…was super great for us. Or so it seemed.

Then Harold discovered games on the iPad. Violent games. Being a pacifist, violent games seem so entirely ridiculous to me (not to mention pointless and time-sucking). Blah blah blah don’t try to convince me that those violent games have redeeming qualities or teach my son some kind of fascinating skill that he could likely learn somewhere else.

Here’s what was happening: Harold was being a jerk. That’s right, I said it. The Jerk Store called and they wanted my five-year-old son back. You guys, he was being so rude. He was ungrateful (what I believe to be the rudest thing for a child to be). He was lashing out. He was Captain Whiney Pants. And we were being jerks back to him (threatening to take away the iPad: not doing it sometimes, doing it sometimes). There were arguments and threats and bribes and UGH! I was starting to loathe the weekends because it would be another Epic iPad Battle and I was losing my marbles.

Our whole family was fed up, so we said: “ENOUGH WITH THE TV!”

 

So that was it. For the last two months there has been no TV for Harold. No shows. No games. Nothing. But inside that nothing was everything. Because now there is so much more of the good stuff. There are way fewer arguments and way more board games and laughter and goofiness and creativity. There are more hammock sessions in the backyard and way more epic artwork being created. We spend hours biking the trails and checking out the nearest swimming hole. My kids are baking lots more cookies (so I’m running more, obviously) and they’re building expansive forts in the living room. Harold goes to bed calmer and sleeps deeper. He isn’t as afraid of the dark (thanks scary violent games for making him afraid of the dark in the first place) and the dreams he reports on in the morning are filled with more running races against his friends in which he’s victorious instead of robot gun wars.

But the best part: childhood. He gets to have it back. Harold gets dirtier now. He has more scrapes on his knees now. We go through more bandages than ever before. His head smells sweet and sweaty at the close of Saturday from all his intense playing now. I love that kid. I loved that boy who sat on the iPad for 6 hours several Saturdays in a row, too. And I love this kiddo that wants to do MadLibs with me in bed on Sunday mornings now instead of begging for the iPad. I love reading the Sunday funnies to him and explaining all the jokes in the cartoons. I love listening to him sing when he gets lost building a block castle.

And the iPad? Harold has forgotten about it for the most part. He hasn’t asked for it in 8 weeks. We might return to it but not in the near future. We’re having too much fun reading The Call of the Wild and hunting for toads in Grammy and Poppy’s yard to even want TV to ruin our good vibe. Now that we’ve said enough to TV I can’t get enough of this 5-year-old boy!

Have you had enough of TV, yet?