Parenting and the t.v.

I’ve done it.  I’ve let my young children watch hours of t.v. while I did my cleaning, caught up on computer work or finished project x, y, z.  How did I go from being an attached parent to one who had to remember to make lunch for the kids at home?  I think it’s all about effort and moderation — for myself and for the kids.

After a day of arguing about video game time being over — for real, this time — I’ve had it.  We are getting rid of the t.v.  We just cancelled the cable again, realizing that we still can’t afford it, and I’m beginning to feel like the big black mass is a black hole, sucking my energy and my kids’ imagination.  After dialogue, my husband agrees that we’ll give the box to family, but he insists that there must be a better way.  Any time we get frustrated with something, should we always just get rid of it?  That’s usually my response to the kids’ toys, but finally I’ve helped them organize their room to keep it manageable.  Recently, my husband had a moment of “I’m done.”  With what?  “Being a parent.  I’m done.”  We all get exasperated, exhausted, but I have to laugh.  “They’re not going back where they came from,” I promised him.  We can’t just get rid of them.  We will manage and prevail, like we do every other day.

This job of parenting is challenging.  It’s easy to turn on an electric babysitter and let the kids zone out for hours, but it’s not in anyone’s best interest; even the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks so.  Thirty minutes a couple of times per day might be a compromise.  A weekly agenda of activities — that’s a goal.  In The Tipping Point, a book my dearest is reading now, it mentions Sesame Street.  This pioneer of children’s programming knows what works.  In a room full of awesome toys and young children, there was also a television playing.  No, the children didn’t sit and watch the t.v.  They played as kids should.  However, afterwards, the kids can all say what had been on the t.v., even though they hadn’t watched it directly.  The truth of the matter:  kids are as smart as we thought.  They pay attention.  The thing is, it’s not just the t.v. they are watching; it’s also Mom and Dad.  As we teach them, so they teach us.  What are our television behaviors?

Our decision for now:  we gave up television for Lent.  Forty days for refletion, and we’ve already gained insight.  We’ll probably keep the t.v., maybe even save for a projector instead.  We’ll accept the challenge of finding moderation, and I guess when we have grandchildren, perhaps we’ll find out how well we passed the test.

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