I’d love to sit here all proud of the fact that the TV is almost never on in our house, but I honestly can’t take much credit. It was my husband who was super anti-TV when our kids were younger and I respected his wishes on that, even though I thought it was all kinds of bullshit since I was with them more and felt I unfairly shouldered the burden.
Later we all but gave the TV away, as far as our kids were concerned, because our daughter had such an awful time turning it off that the inevitable meltdown negated any stress relief provided by turning it on in the first place. In the last year our daughter quite literally never watched TV at our house.
I have busted out some Spanish language cartoons to keep my son occupied when he wakes up before I’m done showering after a workout, but that isn’t a regular occurrence. Still, at not even two years old he’s sat in front of way more lighted screens than his sister had at that age (actually, she never sat in front of any TV before she was two, my husband insisted on that).
So yes, I am pretty proud that we don’t fall back on TV, but it’s a misplaced pride because I didn’t really have anything to do with it. If it were up to me my kids would watch TV every day.
At least that is what I thought…until I realized I might need to turn it on to get through some of these insane afternoons. And suddenly I’m not sure I want to.
My in-laws suggested it first. They saw first hand the chaos that ensued when they dropped our son off after a day at their house. My daughter is tired, wired, clingy and whiny after a long day at school and after care. My son gets amped up just seeing my daughter. He wants to be with her. She needs her space. They require constant coaching in appropriate sibling interaction. I need to get dinner ready and on the table.
“Just have them watch Sesame Street,” my mother-in-law implored.
“Talk to your son,” was my immediate response.
But he was okay with it too. He also recognizes the perfect storm of shit that is the hour before mealtime, especially now that my kids are so hungry they want to eat long before my husband is even home. If I don’t turn the TV on, making dinner is almost impossible and by the time I get everyone seated at the table I am completely and utterly frazzled. The thought of making it through two separate bedtimes is almost unbearable.
When I turn on the TV, making dinner is a breeze. I can even get the dishes done, and put a load in the laundry early, which means I won’t be up waiting to fold clothes before bed.
Turning on the TV is the obvious choice, and yet I feel like a horrible mom for doing it. I have so few hours with my children, to abandon them to a glowing screen for 54 minutes feels like neglect. But then, when I have that time to recharge while I make them food, I can engage with them more in the final hours before bed. And I enjoy those moments with them more as well.
The only reason the TV is even an option now is because my daughter can handle turning it off. Whether it’s the diet or the magnesium or a bit of both, my daughter is truly a changed child. Now she hardly blinks when I turn off the TV. She comes straight to the table and starts to eat. (A separate miracle, to be sure.)
And so the two great barriers between me and my kids’ TV time have crumbled. My husband now supports me turning it on instead of balking at the prospect, and my daughter doesn’t meltdown when I turn it off. There is no reason not to use it except my own… I want to say concern over how much screen time they’ll be getting, but I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a fair amount of pride at stake too.
I also realize I have no idea how much TV other kids watch. Maybe an hour a day, four days a week, isn’t such a bad thing? Maybe that’s totally normal. I honestly don’t know.
How much TV do your kids watch? How do you feel about how much screen time they get?