I thought it might be time for a blog post on my most irregularly updated writing outlet.
I thought this because I started chatting on Facebook with some folks about the fact that my daughter isn’t allowed to watch TV, at all, for the rest of the month. They, of course, wanted more information and Facebook just isn’t the right platform for a diatribe about TV.
So, here I am.
Those of you who signed up for email updates from this site, who are pretty sure that someone murdered me after my last post on meal planning, surprise!
So on to this TV nonsense.
I have always been a fan of television. When I was a kid, it was Sesame Street and the Electric Company, and then 3,2,1, Contact! which was the science show on PBS. I was a big fan of Square One, too, even though I typically despise math.
Not all my favorite shows were so educational, though. I loved Strawberry Shortcake, She-Ra, her brother, He-Man, Tom & Jerry, The Ghostbusters and The Real Ghostbusters.
The list goes on and on (and on, and on, and on…..).
But, when I was a kid, kid shows knew their place. A couple hours of PBS in the morning, and a couple hours of cartoons in the afternoon. And I never watched all those hours; by the time I was watching the afternoon cartoons, I was too old to be too interested in Sesame Street.
And of course, there was the Saturday Morning Cartoon Marathon Session, where my brother and I would chew on cereal and fight over the remote control till about noon, when TV got boring again.
This is no longer the case.
Now, we have Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, the Disney Channel, Disney XD, and more channels that cater to children all day and all night. Heck, even my beloved PBS has given in, with PBS Kids Sprout, which can be found playing Bob The Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine at any time.
And herein lies our problem. Or, at least, part of it.
My Joey has always been what I lovingly refer to as “high maintenance.” She was the baby that would only sleep on me. She was the toddler who needed to be on my back, literally, while I cooked dinner. She was the kid who couldn’t play by herself and needed constant interaction and constant supervision.
You guys, this constancy started the day after she was born.
It was six months before I could shower without hearing her scream in the background, and that was showering while her father was home and playing with her. She desperately needed me. I’m not sure what it was that made her so terrified to be without me for even a second, although I have some theories, but trust me when I say you have no idea how exhausting this was, unless you’ve had a similar type child.
One day, I discovered that she liked the Muppets. I discovered this because I freaking LOVE the Muppets and was watching a video, while I was, of course, holding the baby. I noticed that it was grabbing her attention here and there, and I decided to experiment. I put her in her swing, facing the TV.
Okay, stop right there, because I hear the Parent Police warming up their sirens. Yes, I’ve heard all the studies recommending that children be kept away from screens till they are two years old, at least. And I was totally behind that. Until I discovered that I could put her down and brush my teeth if there were music and lights coming from the idiot box.
There’s this thing called survival mode, and I was there. And the TV rescued me.
And so, I take full responsibility for the fact that I likely brought this on myself.
It started out innocently enough, mostly with some age appropriate whining at bedtime. What kid wants to go to bed, anyway?
Then we started having some whining about going to school some mornings. When asked what she’d rather be doing, Joey would tell us she’d rather stay home and watch TV.
Somewhere along the line, all of this turned into full on scream-fests when Joey was asked to step away from the television. Bed time, dinner time, homework time. Any time, really.
Our daughter is addicted to television.
Don’t laugh; it’s an actual condition. I Googled. Apparently, in our days of technology, we are breeding an entire generation of kids who are completely dependent on technology for everything.
Run a test. Do your kids know how to find out how to spell a word using a dictionary? Do they even know what a dictionary is? Besides the Dictionary.com website, I mean.
Hell, I’m a writer. I do this for a living, and I don’t have a dictionary on the shelf in my office, because internet!
Now, interestingly enough, the little O kid, Kimmie? She could give a total of two craps about TV. She’ll watch it if it’s on, and she has some shows that she really enjoys. (That Diego song is burned into my brain. I’ll have alzheimer’s and not remember who she is, but I’ll still be humming that damn song.)
As a rule though, if the TV is off, she won’t even think to turn it on. The only exception to that is when she’s sick and just wants to lie on the couch. And who can blame her?
It’s probably noteworthy that she was a super easy baby, who would nap on her own for hours on end, and didn’t even bother looking in the general vicinity of the television till she was at least 18 months old.
Like I said, I brought this on myself.
So, back to Joey. We’ve been having a few really bad weeks. She’s been acting out and being generally bratty. I don’t use that word lightly, either. In fact, I kind of hate that word. That’s a subject for another blog though.
In addition to her acting out, Joey’s been displaying the aforementioned aversion to anything not related to television. So, between a full fledged tantrum when it’s time for bed, constant fighting with her sister, being completely disrespectful to not only both of her parents, but also to her grandparents, I was ready to take action.
I just had no idea, of course, what action to take.
My husband’s got some amazing instincts when it comes to this stuff, though. He’d been telling me for a while that he thinks the TV is a big part of her problems, and I just did not see the connection. My eyes have since been opened.
On Saturday night, the girls wanted to stay up to watch The Santa Clause 3. It was on till 9:30, which is a full hour past their bedtime. But we had nothing planned for the morning, so I relented, figuring if anyone woke up grumpy, we could all cuddle back into bed for a short winter’s nap.
But, when 9:30 rolled around and the movie was over, Joey freaked out. She didn’t want to go to bed, she wanted to watch more TV. I chalked it up to her being up and hour past her normal time, and waited it out. She fell asleep pretty quickly once she stopped screaming. Really.
The next night, we got all our business settled and ready for school with plenty of time to spare, so the girls got to watch a little TV before bed. Of course, during the show they were watching, they saw an advertisement for the next show that was coming on, which was a brand new episode of one of their faves.
Joey asked, of course, if they could stay up to watch it and I advised her to tape it on the DVR so she could watch it after school the next day. She threw a holy fit.
No, seriously, not just a regular fit, but a holy one.
I’m maybe a little ashamed to admit that I largely let my husband handle it, because Joey exhausts me at her best. Sometimes, I just need a drink and a bubble bath.
I heard him tell Joey that if she didn’t calm down, she was going to lose TV privileges for a week.
She did not calm down.
He upped it to a month.
And that’s how we find ourselves here, on the first day of a month of no TV in the house. Or at least, no TV for Joey.
This insanely long blog post is just the backstory for the week’s posts. Next time (maybe tomorrow? Who knows on this blog, right?), we’ll go over the science of childhood television addiction. And I’ll even share links, because I’m still an investigative journalist at heart.