Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mommy confession: My kid watches TV

Parenting has taught me two things: Oprah is often wrong (I was already suspicious of this), and Justin Beiber has at least one thing right (this surprised me). You can never know anything for sure, and you should never say never.

Like the dreaded pacifier, I embarked on my journey as a mum sure that television would not be part of my child's early years.

Chris and I had already made a conscious choice when we first moved in together that it wouldn't feature prominently in our lives, placing our only TV waaay out of reach on the third floor of the house where we could only really watch it is we made the deliberate choice to catch a specific program, and only if that specific program was available on Netflix. So it seemed logical that we would keep our little one from watching TV for his first two years, as "they" recommend.

Frankly, it was pretty easy to manage this goal for Ollie's first 16 months. Without a TV around, he didn't know what it was anyway. And generally if he wasn't happily playing, or eating, or cuddling, or nursing, he was sleeping, so when would TV have factored in anyway? We're outside 80% of the waking day, and when we're inside, we're usually having fun together.

Except, lately, when we're not. As we get closer and closer to birthday number two, I've found that although most of the time Ollie is still the happy, playful, interactive little guy he's always been, there are some times during the day where nothing at all will make him happy. Not sleep, not snacks, not cuddles, not nothing.

Well, not nothing except Sesame Street, that is.

He looks so cute when he's watching his stories!

Actually, it started with Nemo. Ollie was sick and miserable, and didn't know what to do with himself, and so he and I curled up on the couch for the very best sickness pass time, vegging out to a movie. The vegging part didn't really work out though, as a child who has never seen television isn't so likely to take the whole thing lying down.

Ollie was AMAZED! SHOCKED! DELIGHTED! by everything that happened on the screen. And that was just the opening studio sequence. For the first ten minutes, every 30 seconds he turned to me, pointed at the screen and made a face that said "Are you seeing this!?!?" And after that he more or less lost interest.

But one screening was all it took for him to learn one, very clear, very demanding word. "Nemo!"

I felt pretty guilty. Most of the parents I hang around with fall into the strict no-TV camp. But I also know that most of the other parents in the world fall into the opposite category. And that most of the parents I'm talking about watched TV as children. And most of them are perfectly intelligent, with attention spans that are completely reasonable (or were before the proliferation of blogs).

So as Ollie starts to have more moments when I can't find anything else to help him relax, or to hold his attention, or to be frank, when I just need a few minutes to put dinner together, he's also starting to be allowed to watch a bit of TV.

So far his approved viewing list is short: Finding Nemo (in ten minute chunks), Postman Pat (because I find his black and white cat charming), and Sesame Street (because it is classic, and I like a cheerful urban environment for learning, although I do hate that Elmo!).  But I am growing to love those fifteen minute chunks of happy peace..

... What do you think? Do your munchkins watch any TV? How much? What do they watch?


  1. We totally tried the no TV route with Kale too, before giving in and allowing a specific list of channels (soccer, BBC/CBC news, and TVO). This was mostly related to the fact that Kris wants to have the game on while he's rolling around on the floor with Kale or getting dinner ready. We also liked having the news on in the morning when we were getting ready. TVO - well, that's more about giving Kale kid-friendly programs that aren't trying to force gender-stereotypes and consumerism down his throat (*cough, cough *YTV, Disney..*). Also, there are no commercials on TVO. We've done good keeping it limited to those channels and we don't watch much TV ourselves so it hasn't been an issue. Kale is more interested in dancing to the theme songs of Arthur and Rob the Robot at this point, as opposed to actually watching the program. I'm sure as he gets older, this will change, but I will always do my best to keep him away from commercials and terrible TV. Ask me in another year and this may all have gone down the tubes...

  2. Adam watches 60 second of TV when I cut his finger nails and sometimes watches construction videos with his dad for 15 minutes while I make dinner. My mother-in-law bought him Mighty Machines which we found SUPER-ANNOYING and got rid of it after two minutes of obnoxious accents and insipid comments. Instead, we find construction videos online. The government of Alberta put out a series promoting jobs in construction ("Be A Grader Operator!") which are pretty awesome. If he ever gets over his current obsession with construction (haha), I won't replace it with more screen time. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.


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