I don’t really want to write this. Do you remember how I told you Jen Hatmaker’s 7 is totally hijacking my life? Well, it continues to do so. And it’s making me rethink how I do things and spend things and allocate my time. So lucky you get to come along for the ride.
I was hard-core from the outset about my kids interaction with television. I had read all those pediatric studies that said kids shouldn’t watch television before they turned 2, and I followed that plan. I was largely able to implement that plan because I have a job Monday through Friday and didn’t have to deal with all the madness seven days a week. Had I stayed at home, I’m sure I would have caved in by month four. A little before they turned two we started introducing these little three and four-minute educational videos from You Tube. Not surprisingly, they loved it.
Around the time they turned two, I introduced two shows which were allowed a couple of times a week – Curious George and Berenstein Bears. A little after that, we also allowed Barney. When the slippery slope really got slippery was when we returned from Disney in September of last year, a month before the kids turned three. They had so enjoyed Disney that we introduced some Disney movies – they would watch a half hour of a movie before bed and it took about three nights to wrap one up. This didn’t happen every night, but at least half the nights out of the week. Nemo, Aristocats, Jungle Book, Rescuers, and Peter Pan which was their favorite. Somehow, on the heels of that, I approved another slate of shows – it included Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Cat and the Hat, Bob the Builder, and Thomas the Train. I still made sure I watched the shows first and that they didn’t see commercials, but I found that more mornings than not I allowed them to watch 15 to 20 minutes of t.v. before breakfast so that I could get my make up on before the nanny arrived. Then….every once in a while they would get into fights or underfoot while I was preparing dinner at 6 pm, and it was so easy to let them watch 15 minutes of t.v. again so no one got burned and banged.
Well, flash forward to me reading this paragraph out of “7” – it punched me in the gut: Between the fighting, crying, whining, and blaming, I hit a metaphorical wall. I want to turn on a movie and silence their little mouths. A nice screen trance would settle the tumultuous waters…We have to deal with rather than anesthetizing tension with TV or video games. It’s easier to bypass relational snags with a convenient distraction, forfeiting the chance to improve problem solving and listening skills. I don’t want my kids to be more comfortable interacting with a computer screen than a human being. We stay the course until we’ve resolved an issue, not allowing “Phineas & Ferb” to fill the space instead. This is harder and requires more time, but my kids will marry people and have bosses and children. Learning healthy relational skills is now or never.
Here’s the thing – I actually think it is fine that I allow the kids to watch television for 15 minutes so I can blow dry my hair before the nanny arrives. But if I’m using it as a tool to keep them from being in the kitchen with me and interacting, or I’m using it as a tool to shut down fights instead of teaching them how to resolve conflict, then it has gone too far. I know I’m in for years of battles about television time at our, and friends’, houses in the future, so why on Earth would I allow extra t.v. now when I have control over the situation?
I know television is a hotly contested issue, but I think that we as Americans are becoming more reliant on televisions and iPads and video games and less capable of carrying on conversations and hearing what’s going on in each others lives. Isn’t that what family means? Well, it’s time to cut back. It’s time to use those precious hours we have together to interact instead of isolate. We’re going to scale back and work towards the less is more end of the spectrum when it comes to media.