I am a happily married mama with three little ladies. I am a teacher, a poet, a playwright. I live on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest and write babybythesea.net often, or at least when I'm not making espresso or sneaking chocolate.

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Television, Thoughtfully


I’m pretty sure I said it more than once in my pre-parent life.  My kids won’t watch television, I’ll never plug them in during a car trip and I won’t use shows as a reward.


Truth is, my kids can work the DVR remote better than my parents.  My girls can iTouch their way into any iPhone movie and know how to get the surround sound to be at its best when it matters.

Truth is, I’ve always loved a good film, subtitled or black and white.  I’ve always loved a good series, teenage-angst-drama or reality and game show.  I love to watch nighttime soaps like (swallow, gulp) 90210 with girl friends, just as I enjoy watching a documentary with my husband about a surfer who travels to South America.  So, why shouldn’t my kids enjoy the same eye candy?

I guess my Gossip Girl is my girls’ Word Girl.

I know.  I should be reading them a story or rolling out pie crust, but the thing is I need a break as much as they do sometimes.  My youngest, Olive, is 17 months and her favorite movie is the instructional DVD on baby sign language we got from the library.  She moves right along with the instructor and it’s the funniest thing.  She’s picked up a handful of signs, and really seems to enjoy it.  I read her sign board books and her sisters work their sign magic in all corners of our home, but I just need to not feel guilty about her learning from a TV-stranger.

I remember eyeing the other library mamas when my first baby was not-even-two during Lap Sit and Linger thinking, hey, you let your kid watch tv too?  Can we be friends?  Can it be our dirty little secret?  Some days, it feels as if I’ve earned a demerit badge on my earth-mama, knitter-mama, natural-mama sash.  Some days, it feels good to put on a kid show to sip a slow, freshly frothy mocha latte in a quiet kitchen.

Television has its trials, especially when I’m the one who once drove a rusty car around New Hampshire with a bumper sticker that read, Kill Your Television.  I’ve lived without one for years, with one for a few more, without for more, still, kept coming back to the black box like a tattered kite in a gentle sea breeze.  Television welcomes a love, hate relationship.

My four year old is a bit more obsessed.  She has such a hard time when the television show is over.  She’ll go on for days asking and asking for a show, crying and kicking when it’s over.  Like it’s been too much visual love and the affair has broken her heart.  This high and low really throw me for a loop.

I’m starting to realize it’s when I infrequently dole out a show, the longing sets in.  I seemed to make it a bigger deal by saying no, not today.  I’ve started saying, Sure.  How about after ___ ( like eating lunch or nap)? When I approach it like no big deal, she hardly asks.  But, that’s always after the hurtle of when, when, when? Highs and lows.

My eldest daughter would rather listen to a book on tape then watch television.  I have to admit, I had her watching a lot of  Baby Einstein movies in her earliest years.  Maybe it was too much, too soon.  I was on bed rest in my second pregnancy; my husband worked 100 hour weeks for the power company.  Our family lived far away.  We do what we do.

My eldest does, however, love watching movies family style, with popcorn and snuggley blankets.  She also loves a good, evening trip to the theater.  Whether it’s downtown or in our living room with movie tickets she’s made in crayon, water colors.

Sometimes it’s fun to wagon-ride down to the movie store and use some piggy bank money for a show all sisters agree on.

Sometimes it’s hard to find something we can all watch together.  We watch a lot of animal shows.  We’ve watched more princess movies with happy endings I care to disclose.  Lately, there’s an offbeat set of animated biographies our local library carries and they’ve been digging those.  Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc, Pocahontas and there’s even a series about life in Colonial America, Liberty Kids.  I’m sometimes shocked at what shows they do love, do connect with.

I’m big on literacy.  There are children’s books in every room of our house.  I believe in media literacy, too.  We have a DVR so we rarely watch commercials.  But, sometimes we slow ’em down and talk about what the ad wants us to buy, how they’re trying to make us believe in it.  We do the same with movies.  We ask questions and make predictions when we’re watching a show.  We talk about the characters, the problems they overcame.  We talk about their favorite parts and why they liked certain parts least.

Television’s bad reputation comes from unsupervised mindless, hour after hour viewing.  That goes for any age.

Some days the dishwasher needs emptying and I want to do it while while deep in conversation with a far-away telephone friend.  I just need to be aware of using it as an activity versus using the television as a time filler, and remember to keep a good balance.

Truth is, there’s no danger in a good story, however it’s told.

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Comments (4)

  1. Pingback: » Television & Tan Lines Baby By The Sea

  2. Erica Fehrman 04/15/2011 at 2:19 pm

    Work at home moms? Would not happen without tv. Sad but true.

  3. Katie Neuman 04/15/2011 at 9:02 am

    …that would be “hoWever it’s told” 😉

  4. Katie Neuman 04/15/2011 at 9:01 am

    “Truth is, there’s no danger in a good story, hoever it’s told.”

    Right on, Jenn. My little ones love to spend some quiet, popcorn eating time in front of the tv too. Like you, I always said my kiddos wouldn’t watch tv (or have plastic toys). Ha! We all need to find our downtime like you also stated. In our house, the tv time is late-afternoon as the little ones wake up from nap and I prep our dinner (so I kind of *am* rolling out that piecrust). Right before bed has also become a tv time ritual. A certain cartoon both boys adore. We all snuggle on the couch and watch together before heading up for bedtime routines.

    Thanks for bringing some raw honesty to a subject that is probably most mamas…dirty little secret. 🙂