So – last week we decided (crazy as it might sound) that Blake is no longer allowed to watch TV. Like – ever. I know – are we crazy? Have we lost our minds? Life without Elmo and Thomas the Tank Engine? Will the sky fall? Will pigs grow wings? It’s Day 3 of our decision, and we’re still running strong – and some truly amazing things have started to happen.
I want to admit – it usually makes me want to punch something when I ask someone if they’ve seen a certain TV show, and they respond simply, “Oh, I don’t watch TV.” What? Are you kidding me? Who do you think you are, Mother Theresa? Beyond that, anytime I’ve ever heard another mom say she doesn’t allow TV in her house, it makes me bristle a little bit. What? Who doesn’t let their kids watch TV? I mean, really?
Well, as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons not to. I’ve been reading this amazing book called Simplicity Parenting, which talks a lot about society today and why our kids are so anxious and stressed. One of the main reasons, outside of the general clutter, fast pace, and “too much” of our daily lives, is the media. I had no idea, but in France, there is actually a law that TV shows cannot be promoted to children under 3 because it’s been proven to be that detrimental to children’s development. Yeah. Like – even Sesame Street has been proven to cause learning delays. So – sorry, Elmo. You’re cute, but apparently you’re not helping. At all.
There are two reasons I was surprisingly OK with the concept of axing the tube despite my usual annoyance with being who are too holy for TV. First, I’ve personally been enraged lately by the media’s coverage of certain events … from the Tucson shootings to the homeless radio guy. It feels like they’re just as happy promoting someone’s pain and tragedy as they are their joys and triumphs. The Today Show was happy to invite Ted Williams onto their show every morning for a week … and then just as happy to run the story that he was in rehab because he couldn’t handle the pressure of being famous. Really? Sounds a little ironic to me. And the Tucson shootings – I don’t need to see interviews of people who knew the shooter in 8th grade or hear them tell me he was weird – or not. It doesn’t change anything. And it’s ridiculous for the media to run those things like they’re entertainment, rather than the fallout of people’s actual lives.
So, besides a general internal rage that’s been brewing for media in general, I’ve also been noticing that Blake just doesn’t respond well to TV. As soon as we walk in the door from camp, he heads to the DVD player to pop in Thomas the Tank Engine. If he can’t watch it, he has a breakdown. And when he does watch it, he zones out to such a degree that I can’t even talk to him. So – what’s a mom to do? Risk a breakdown (which in turn makes me break down), or risk my son’s long-term development. The choice seemed pretty simple.
We decided on Friday that it was necessary to make the change. No TV in the house during Blake Dean hours, which meant our entire morning routine (which once consisted of a lot of cuddles in bed while watching Sesame Street and eating brekkie) would be killed. Truth be told, this was usually my favorite part of the day because 1) I’m an affection addict and love getting hugs from my monster and 2) the beautiful lull of Sesame Street allowed me a few extra minutes to relax before the day got too hectic. But even this seemingly innocent act needed to be changed. Saturday morning, we pulled that band-aid off and haven’t looked back. This is what we found.
1) Blake is a lot more fun when he isn’t around the influence of TV, even just as background noise. He’s a lot more focused, and a lot more attentive. He likes to set the table for breakfast, and he likes to eat – for real – without me even having to beg him. When we made pancakes Sunday morning he ran up to the table to sit down – rather than me dragging him kicking and screaming, as I’d often have to do when Clifford or Elmo or Thomas are on.
2) We have a lot more time, and we talk more. At the breakfast table, at the dinner table – at the beach – it doesn’t matter. There’s less mental clutter to keep us from doing activities we enjoy, and more open space to talk and know someone is listening. Like my husband said – this is a total game-changer.
3) Blake Dean hasn’t really minded the change.
I know – it’s only Day 3 of our decision. But it’s been such a good one that I can’t see us changing anytime soon (unless I’m on a cross-country flight with the monster … at which point I’m sure I would not hesitate a moment to pop a DVD in.) And outside of one or two requests for Thomas this weekend, Blake really hasn’t even seemed to notice the difference – although I’ve definitely noticed a difference in him.