Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Boob Tube

I'm about to out myself in a big way, here. After talking to a set of preschool-aged triplets (all boys, natch) at the park who were imagining they were characters from some toddler book series I'd never heard of, because their family "doesn't do TV" (according to their nanny), I have to say it: I don't know how parents do it without TV.

Left to my own devices, I'm not much of a TV person. I watch Project Runway and LA Ink (despite this season being terrible-awful-holy-crap-could-they-be-trying-any-harder-to-create-a-story?), and occasionally catch The Daily Show and the odd episode of 30 Days. But if anything could turn me into a TV person, it's having a child.

Breastfeeding was the beginning of the end. Making a commitment to nursing also meant making a commitment to sitting on my ass a lot of the time. And having a baby who needed me to "hold his sandwich" for him while he ate meant that my hands weren't free do read or type. So TV it was. For a while, I watched everything. I lived for marathons, because I could get the whole story arc in an afternoon.

Even though I watched hours of television while holding Westley, I didn't want my son to grow up with a lot of TV. I have enough film theory under my belt that I'm sensitive to issues involving visual media. Which isn't to say I blame the media for all of society's problems; I fully believe film and television are powerhouses when it comes to sending important societal messages and influencing people, and that scares me sometimes. Especially as a parent.

When I was a young child, my brother and I watched Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street...and that was it, except for the occasional videotaped children's concert. As we got older, a few movies were added to the mix (The Neverending Story is still one of my all-time favorite films), but mostly, the TV was off and we did other things. I don't think I saw any commercial television until I was eight.

Paranoia and nostalgia were not enough to keep my son TV-free, however. I like to think it's not my fault that Westley watches TV; in a moment of unbridled nostalgia for my childhood, my parents bought Westley two Raffi DVDs, and the rest is history. Of course, I have to take responsibility for putting the DVDs in the player day after day, when Westley pointed to the television and said, "gee-taw" (guitar). So, yeah. It's my fault. But seeing the smile on Westley's face--and having a few uninterrupted minutes to wash my hair or unload the dishwasher--made TV impossible to resist.

Now, I have a PVR full of Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba, and Westley regularly asks for Follow That Bird, Milo and Otis, and, of course, YouTube. And you know what? My kitchen is a little cleaner, my bangs are a little less oily, and if Westley and I are having a day where we both feel like absolute crap, we can cuddle and quietly watch Murray and Ovejita plant things at "gardening school" (which is how Westley learned the words "rake" and "dig").

So, there you have it: I do TV, and so does my not-yet-two-year-old son. I know this isn't how I'm supposed to parent. But I think if I tried to do everything I'm supposed to do as a stay-at-home mother, I would be a complete physical and emotional mess by the end of the day. As it stands, my son occasionally has Muppet babysitters, and both he and I are clean, well-fed, and more or less happy come bedtime.