Monday, March 7, 2011


I went in to parenting feeling open on this subject. I had watched my sister with her children and chatted with other parents on the subject. How much, if any, tv is okay for kids? It seemed to me, in my untried state, that if one restricted the television then kids just wanted it more, more, more! I tend to think that making something 'off limits' just makes you desperate for it. Therefore I didn't make tv off limits, if Judah wanted to watch something he could. We've had a very loose system in place the last three years.

Eric grew up with tv (he had one in his bedroom *gasp*). We didn't have a tv until I was 11!! It was handed down from my great grandparents and only played movies. For movie nights prior to the tv, we'd trek over to my grandparents house and watch old black and whites with big bowls of popcorn while we brushed my mom and grandma's hair for a penny a minute. I was raised on a farm and Eric in the suburbs of Boston. Needless to say our childhoods were very different. While Eric can rattle off all pertinent current events from the eighties and nineties I could only recollect CARMEN, a little DC Talk, some country, any movie by Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald, Doris Day. . . my past knowledge is so small I wouldn't even bore you in the retelling.

Back to today, since Judah's been interested in movies from about a year on we've been pretty lax about it. Internally I've been freaking out at the amount that he would watch, but it quickly became a cycle that felt impossible to break. I figured that if I could at least get him out for part of the day either to a friends house or the park then he wouldn't really watch too much. Really it just assuaged my guilt that he was watching a ridiculous amount. Fast forward to moving to Eureka. It rains a lot more, the parks are often wet, we're in an apartment, we don't have very many friends and the tv has become our very best friend. My house has been clean for the people we never see and my children have sat like drones on the couch watching countless hours of Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo and etc. Every day felt like a waste. We weren't living and it's amazing how much sitting on the couch can suck out of you. I assumed they'd get up and play, that it would become background noise. Instead Judah would sit in the same spot on the couch, unless he was sitting at the cutout in the kitchen watching, while eating lunch. Avi could play and has always had a greater interest in toys than in watching movies. Judah has only loved movies and would choose it over playtime, food, toys or any distraction we could think up.

I melted down. After another day of not knowing what to do to interest or motivate Judah away from the tv I asked Eric to 'break' our television set. He turned off the power strip. No matter how many buttons you push it won't turn on. We try every day.

All of this to share how the last television free days have gone. Can I just say that life has been infused into our home?! Toys that have never been played with are seeing use, Judah recently was playing Dr with Avi, giving her shots and medicine, they've been playing hide and seek and chase. Prior to our shift if the tv wasn't on I was the only option. It was as though my kids couldn't imagine ways to play outside of me, this made the tv even more necessary as there are times when I need space. The first day without, it was as though Judah was lost, he clung to me the entire day. The next he began to learn to entertain himself. Last night I was open to doing a movie night, instead we popped a great big bowl of popcorn and played Toy Story operation, then read stories. The quality of our days has increased, our time together has become so much more rich and enjoyable. We ate breakfast under the table with blankets draped over to make a fort. Life is opening itself with possibilities and while I have nothing against television, for my home it is like a black hole sucking all imagination into itself.

I don't know how long it will be 'broken' , but I wouldn't mind if it remains for the rest of time an empty box that eventually we'll decorate with a nice doily and maybe a picture of the life we chose to live instead.


Lacy Fontaine Remebering What Makes Life Wonderful said...

Sooo inspiring.

charis said...

i so get you! we don't have a tv because i know it would suck the time and life out of us! we chose when we got married to give being tv-less a trial run and have been happy without it for 9 years. when i was pregnant with uriah and asher's only playmate i trained him to watch movies on my computer so i could go back to sleep on the couch and not entertain him. unfortunately, i had to untrain him from the same thing you were writing about. now we are at a place that a movie night as a family can be a nice treat and not a normal entertainment. i love to hear my boys playing and using their imaginations and toys... and especially playing sports outside together now that they are getting old enough. i think tv and movies are nice when they are the exceptional treat to life and draining when they are the overwhelming norm.