Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How TV made me a better mother

Let me say first of all that we do have limits as far as screen time is concerned, but I'm the first to admit my kids watch plenty of TV. In the morning, all bets are off, and its a TV free for all, although since they are lately late-to-bed-and-late-to-rise, this isn't more than one or two shows usually. I've got Sec with me most afternoons and, as I'm sure you know, she's one high-impact child so I consider it essential to promoting peace on earth to allow her a show or two before we pick up Primo. After homework's done, they'll sometimes take in an episode of Curious George, and if they are ever left in the care of my grandmother they basically are glued to the TV. So TV is not a stranger to our home. The AAP wouldn't stage an intervention but they would frown upon it. And knowing this, I end up beating myself up about their screen time, though there's not a chance in hell I could reduce it. And that's because . . .

Without TV, I would be the world's shittiest mother.Some people's kids will entertain themselves quietly for long stretches of time, reading books to their siblings and playing tea party with their teddy bears. These people can enjoy the liberty of not having a TV in the house and then telling they don't have a TV in the house and feeling great about themselves. But some people have kids who, when left alone for five minutes, kill the fish and take all the feathers out of their pillow and tell the neighbor they hate their outfit. Some people have kids who come to blow while fighting over a wizened poinsettia leaf that was found near the garbage. When you have these kinds of kids, you let them watch TV because if you didn't you'd end up banging your head against the wall in an effort to knock yourself unconscious. That's best case scenario.

Primo has been really worried about the possibility of thunderstorms and tornados lately, making him decidedly opposed to leaving the house. “Decidedly opposed” is the polite way to describe a situation where screaming, yelling, whining, crying and threats are used whenever we have to go out – for a playdate, groceries, birthday party, library. It is taxing. But because I’m a fighter by nature, the kind of person that refuses to admit defeat, I soldier on, forcing him o confront his fears and do what needs getting done. It did occur to me though that perhaps the kid needed to feel like he had more control over the day so I asked him what he’d like to do this weekend and he said, “Let's have a Christmas party!” You may recall that I JUST THREW the birthday party of the century for him, so I vetoed this idea immediately, but then he downgraded the party to simply “invite two friends and their families over to watch Christmas movies.”

Movies, did you say? BINGO. All systems go.

We Tivoed "Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" tossed popcorn in the microwave, and set up blankets and pillows on the floor of the living room. Then David busted out the beer he’s been homebrewing and I put out some Costco guacamole and a Carr’s Entertainment Assortment package of crackers. Instant party.

May I say, too, that it was the most pleasant affairs that I’ve hosted in years? Kids a-chuckling, contained in one corner of the apartment, parents imbibing in the other. There were no fights to break up, no interventions necessary. The most taxing thing was cleaning up the popcorn from the rugs afterwards.Primo was happy, Sec was happy, David was happy and I was happy.

Spontaneous, unstructured play is good and all, but when your kids are impossible and you live in a 900 sq foot apartment, it can be a little much on the nerves. TV, on the other hand, heals all wounds.

So today I say, three cheers for the boob tube! AAP, I love you and all, but just for today, you can suck it.