When our kids get to a certain age and they seem relatively well-adjusted and we like them, and they like us back, we might look at some of the things we have done along the way and declare that these things we did, somehow worked.
It’s a little like reviewing a report from a major project and taking note of the elements that were successful.
Looking back, it’s clear that what I like to consider pretty solid tenets of parenting on my part emerged from less than steadfast roots.
Breastfeeding, for example. All three of my daughters were breastfed until age one. Then, as now, there was a host of reasons breast was best for baby. Even breastfeeding for a week or a month, the experts declared, was better than not ever offering baby the essential nutrients found only in mother’s milk. Of course I would breastfeed, and I would do it for one reason: laziness. Just the thought of washing and sterilizing nipples, bottles and those little caps, and prepping formula day in and day out made me tired and cranky. Even the disposable bag system seemed like a lot of work compared to what Bonnie the lactation specialist called nature’s way.
Likewise, what would come to be my official position on television’s place in our kids’ lives was shaped more by laziness than by any desire to somehow shield my children from the influences of TV.
Actually, it was a combination of laziness and interior design.
Let’s start with interior design. I had read somewhere that it wasn’t a good idea to make TV the focal point of a room. A TV set is nothing more than an ugly gray box the majority of the time, the article stated. Why give it premium position? When we moved from our pre-kid cape to the house we’re in now, I marveled at the expansive family room. A fireplace and built-in cabinetry filled the far wall.
The adjustable shelves cried out for books and colorful pottery and a globe and more books. One large alcove was just the right size for a TV. I’m sure that’s what the previous owners had had there.
“It’s just the right size for a TV,” the realtor said right on cue.
“Or a changing table,” I told Scott.
This is the laziness part. Our firstborn hadn’t potty trained yet, and baby number two was in the works. There would be diapers. And lots of them. No way I was going up and down those steps ten times a day. So a changing cushion, and a supply of diapers and wipes, and baby tushies went where the builder, and probably God, had originally intended a television to go.
The TV was summarily stowed on a rollout cart that we had gotten from the back room at LaDiff – so I could tell people we shopped at LaDiff. The ugly gray box on its awesome LaDiff cart lived in a corner behind an overstuffed chair.
In front of it was a basket of books. No way we were relocating the book basket and rolling out the cart (from LaDiff) just to watch one episode of Blue’s Clues or Clifford or even Sesame Street. Consequently, the TV rarely got switched on.
The diapers, however, continued to get changed. And the TV alcove-turned-diaper station served its purpose well for the next four years.
In the meantime, my kids never had a chance to develop a proper addiction.
Weeks would pass without us turning on the TV. The girls never learned how to use a remote. We listened to music all day every day. We still do. And the kids played games, and drew pictures, and put on shows, and built forts…
Like the changing table and the rollout cart, those days are long gone. Between computers, iPods and Tvs, we’re not hurtin’ for screen time around here. And believe me, they’ve all mastered the remote. But perhaps National TV Turnoff Week, coming up next month, will be a good time to revisit that interior design concept. TV should not get top billing in my family room, or in my family’s life.