It started so innocently. We started watching wholesome "Baby Signing Time" videos. The kids were learning sign language! Van was signing all over the place!
Then there was nap time. Nuvy, for all my efforts to make her self-directing, could not entertain herself while I was putting Van down for a nap, which was causing me considerable unrest--so I plopped her on the couch and put in a movie. Baby Signing Time became Disney princess movies (with some interim steps) and she was hooked.
Of course, when Nuvy watches TV, Van watches TV, and Van cannot get enough. We started in with the really hard stuff. Nick-Jr. On Demand, Sprout, endless reruns of Yo Gabba Gabba (I can see how that show got made---but WHY!!!?). Kent and I began following cable drama series, comedy series, watching the MSNBC triumvirate of time wasting (Hardball, Countdown, Maddow) for four solid hours of a weekday evening (they rerun them the same night!)--the 2008 election season was particularly riveting for us. Then, the winter olympics. Unmissable TV events all.
I had excuses, and they weren't too embarrassing. It's too cold out. It's too hot out. It's raining. It's a beautiful day, but I'm so busy--there'll be another pretty day tomorrow. We'll go out after nap. We'll go out all day on Saturday. I'll just run this load of laundry/dishes/answer this email/make this phone call and then turn it off. Turn it off in the middle of a program? They'll go nuts! Watch another one? It's only 25 minutes, right? It's an educational show, right? No? Ok, but there's a lesson in everything right? Right???
My two-year-old knew more sign language than I did, more spanish, chinese, even!! But then I noticed his pincer grasp wasn't all that solid, his toys were dusty, his tricycle buried in the back of the garage, he asked for TV from sun to sun--I was raising a TV junkie!
We cut the cable cord. That saved us a few bucks a month, but it solved nothing. Who needs it? You can download anything you want, plus there's PBS! Good-for-you TV, right? SuperWhy! Dinosaur Train! Charlie Rose! Sesame street! This was TV that admonished you to get off the couch and go read a book or play outside--but there we were, watching the world go by on TV.
I was disgusted, yes, but so busy. I have a business to run! A house to maintain! A life! When Kent brought it up, I said "Well, you're always plopping them in front of the TV, so what are you complaining about? Why don't you do something about it?"
People do this. A lot of people make this choice. A lot of people I know do it.
The Waldorf parents sign a contract promising to do it. We can do it, too.
We turned it off. "Mommy, TV!" from Van. "Can we watch Toy Story 2?" from Nuvy. "Please, Mommy?" All the sugar of a can of Nehi Grape in her voice. "No TV, guys. Go play."
Howls of protest. Disbelief. Anguish. Rage. Oh, God, this is never going to work. Shouldn't we ease into this?
No, we would not ease into it. We went cold turkey. No prononouncements, no threats, no lying that it's "broken" (then magically "fixed" for the evening news). No lectures. We just turned it off. Radio silence.
Ok, radio silence was too radical for me, but I have music! I hit shuffle on the old iPod and the household just switched gears. I found I didn't need to entertain them. They cried, but they did not die. They did not run away. Eventually, they just found something else to do. We started listening to a lot of music. I love the shuffle function, because you can get Edith Piaf, Neil Young, Erykah Badu, Bach, and Tibetan Monks chanting "Om mani padme hum" for 25 minutes--all in the same sitting. The monks generated a lot of conversation, but I think that's for another post.
After a week or so of rediscovering old toys and re-reading the old board books, we got some jigsaw puzzles. My girl is a jigsaw puzzle wizard! Who knew?
Kent and I are both mostly just amazed at how easy it was. Nuvy is almost 5 now, she doesn't need Walt Disney to occupy her while Van goes down for a nap. She can look at a book, or do a puzzle, or dress herself up, draw, any of a hundred things she can find to do of an afternoon. I did have to give up a little screen time myself, but how much of that was I spending reading The Daily Dish anyway? I find that, now that we just quit TV, it's not any harder to entertain the kids than it was WITH the TV. They can play by themselves, they sometimes fight, but unless they're killing each other, they are learning to negotiate--sort of chaotically--something that is hard to tolerate when you get used to TV-induced quiet.
However, I found that I can and should accommodate myself to a little more noise, and stay out of it a little more, which I also have to do now that I can't keep them still long enough to do housework or make phone calls. This is their "homework".
One thing I learned is that it was the dutiful control-freak in me that made me vulnerable. "Helicopter parenting" of little kids is exhausting, so it's easy to give in to that beguiling boob tube. It gave me time to breathe, and to think about something else for a minute.
The big news is that by stepping back a little, and allowing a little inter-sibling chaos, everybody at our house is happier and more productive. We even gave up "ambient TV" (the news) and watch our news programs after their bedtime, through the wonder of streaming video. The only TV our kids see at our house is when the babysitter is here, which makes them happy to see the babysitter, so it works out for everybody.
Anybody got a TV thought to share?