The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Tomorrow, we're going to watch Barney ALL day

Like most kids, I used to make lists when I was growing up of the terrible things that my parents did to me which I would never do to my own children. Limiting television viewing was always at the top of the list.

My brother and I were both well into grade school before we were allowed to watch anything other than public television. Until then, our viewing options were limited to PBS after 4 p.m., which basically meant Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Zoom and 321 Contact. To this day, we can both sing whole Electric Company segments verbatim and describe elaborate Bloodhound Gang plotlines, yet we're completely clueless about much of the popular culture shared by other children of the seventies -- Schoolhouse Rock and Smurf references are lost on us (it should be noted that I originally intended to give 3 examples here, but was unable to even THINK of another one, I was so out of the loop on this stuff).

When we got old enough, we'd go to friends' houses to watch Brady Bunch episodes and feast on what we were missing out on at home. Eventually, my mother relented to our ceaseless requests to expand our television horizons and granted us a half an hour per day each to watch what we wanted. When the TV Guide would arrive in the Sunday paper, we would both lunge for it and spend hours examining each day's grid and making our selections for the week. Eventually, we were also allowed to watch each other's half hour in addition to our own, enabling us to pool our resources and watch an hour-long show if we were willing to work together. These rules persisted pretty much until we left for college.

In general, I tend to think my parents did a pretty amazing job in raising us and there's really not that much I'd change, but I really don't think that they did us any favors with those TV rules. Yes, I learned to love reading in the hours I didn't spend in front of the television, but truthfully, I think that was hard wired in me and would have happened no matter what I was allowed to watch. If anything, I think all of the rules and restrictions made us more obsessed with television, as evidenced by the fact that my brother and I are both TV junkies as adults (I even went so far as to have a career in television, and my brother was never more jealous of me than when he came to visit me at work and saw that I had a TV in my own office which I got to watch all day long).

Old habits die hard, though, and 3 years into this mothering thing, I find my children watching far less television than their peers. Other than Sesame Street and Clifford the Big Red Dog, my children have no knowledge of the popular characters their friends adore and Julia's never watched a movie other than Finding Nemo. Some of this is because my kids are creatures of habit and haven't showed much of a desire to branch out beyond what they already know and love. But I have to admit, a lot of it is because I simply don't let them watch much television. The set goes on in the morning for about half an hour so that I can get a shower (I do have my priorities), and sometimes I'll let them watch something right before or after dinner if they need to wind down, but that's really it. The rest of the time, they know better than to even ask to watch TV.

I know that a lot of moms who limit their kids' television viewing speak proudly about how they fill the day with more enriching activities and pursuits. Unlike them, I'm a little sheepish about how rigid I've discovered myself to be about the TV thing. I really don't think my parents did the right thing by cutting us off from the television. And yet, they so ingrained that value into me that I can't seem to help myself from passing it along to my own children. (The irony of the fact that I am watching the Golden Globes as I type this entry is not lost on me, by the way... hypocrite that I am, regardless of what I teach my children during the day, you'll rarely find me any place other than in front of the TV after they're in bed.)

Unlike me, Paul grew up with a television always on and he tends to put it on more than I would on the weekends. I automatically turn it off when I enter a room, and this has definitely been a source of friction between us more than once. Today, he had the football game on when it was time for the kids to eat dinner and I decided not to battle with him over it, so I simply left it on. Julia had taken only one bite of food when she looked up, saw the TV on and said "Daddy, turn that TV off right now. You know we don't watch TV while we're eating!" At that moment, I realized that despite my best intentions, history has officially repeated itself. I don't know which horrifies me more -- the fact that I've done what I swore I'd never do to my children or the fact that Julia is most definitely going to do it to my grandchildren some day, too.


At 8:09 AM, Blogger Kristy said...

Trust me ;-)...DON'T waver on this (or little) TV is a very, very good thing, if only because it is yet another parallelism in our lives.

My mom constantly talks to me about making sure our kids are NORMAL -- you know, TV and oreos kinds of kids (both things are essentially verboten in our house). And, yes, I definitely see the effect of Zoe being especially enthralled when the TV goes on in someone else's house. But there's a fine line, and I'd rather be on the more restrictive side on this one.

But, I will say, you really are missing out on Schoolhouse Rock -- if only because its one of Zoe's (and now, Evan's) favorite CDs to listen to in the car that I actually can STAND to hear repetitively.

Interplanet Janet, she's a galaxy girl...

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Gina said...

Stay firm on this one, Julia!! LOL I wish that Brad hadn't turned Elizabeth into such a flippin' TV hound. She doesn't WATCH much, but she thinks it always has to be on even if she's in her room playing...the TV in the family room has to be on. I turn it off, she walks through and turns it on - doesn't even stop to watch it! I turn it off again and do the "raised eyebrows from mom" thing - "Do not turn that television on again."

However, if you're going to watch something all the Schoolhouse Rock DVD or watch Nick, Jr. (The Backyardigans are pretty darn cute), but please, please, please don't subject those sweet children to the evil purple dinosaur!!! (wink)


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