Monday, December 10, 2012

Too Much TV

It was a long weekend in the Christmas card factory, but all our cards have gone out in the the factory is officially closed until next year!  Hooray!  I meant to write a little more about our much-maligned Christmas card newsletter in my last post, but got sidetracked by the cards themselves.  I wanted to say that I love our newsletter, and refuse to stop writing it even though I know some folks think it's way too long (my own brother and sister-in-law included!) because it provides a way for me to chronicle each year in the life of our family.  I love re-reading our newsletters from previous years and remembering our experiences as a family--I don't journal or scrapbook, so our Christmas card serves that function for me...really, the recipients should be thankful that I somehow pare down 12 months into two pages.  :)  Also, I know there are other Christmas newsletter junkies out there, just like me, and I hope many of them are on our mailing list and actually do appreciate my effort!  Okay, enough about that.

We're in the middle of an unplanned experiment at our house.  I wrote previously about Jake's inability to get out of diapers, and my frustration with that problem...but I haven't yet written about my children's (and my) love of TV.  Moms everywhere will tell you that their kids don't watch TV, whether or not it's true...I am not that mom.  My kids watch way too much TV.  I admit it, and I'll give you a brief history on how this all happened.  When Abby was born, we had such high ideals for our parenting--I don't think we ever agreed out loud on no TV until she was 2, or only 30 minutes a day, but those recommendations were at the back of my mind as we embarked on parenthood.  Abby turned out to be a very clingy kid--Dan and I had very little peace, especially in the evenings (aka, the dinnertime witching hour).  When she was about 6 months old, we discovered Baby Einstein--more specifically, Baby Einstein's Baby Newton video (all about shapes!).  That darn shape clown gave Dan and me our first quiet dinner since she was born, with Abby happily engrossed in a totally different room than where we were eating (in actuality, she was less than 5 feet from me, but technically she was in the living room and we were in the dining room).  Dan and I didn't even speak to each other the whole meal for fear that we would break the spell--we just gestured excitedly at each other and were in awe of how that clown gave us back some of the space for which we were desperate.

I still know that song by heart, and the dancing clown still makes me so happy!  I'm tempted to show that clip to Abby now to see if she remembers it at all...that girl watched A LOT of Baby Newton.  After Baby Newton broke the ice, I allowed some Sesame Street in the house--it was okay for her to watch TV, as long as it was educational, not annoying (crucial for Mommy's sanity!), and on PBS.  I had some standards--no Barney for us!  Sesame Street was a daily staple at our house back then, but we were also super busy--Abby and I had a very active social calendar in our Ohio moms' group, so we weren't home to watch much TV.

Fast forward to Texas, and a 2nd baby.  We were home a lot more after Jake was born, in part because we had a newborn in the house, and in part because we knew fewer people and therefore had a less-active calendar.  We watched a lot of DVDs at this point (Strawberry Shortcake and princesses were a favorite for our 3-year-old...and still are now that she's 6!), and we branched out to a few more PBS shows--Sid the Science Kid became one of Abby's favorites at that time.  Again, educational junk.  We threw in a Clifford every once in a while, and maybe a Curious George.  Still not a huge variety of shows, but we did spend a good amount of time in front of the TV while I was feeding Jake and needed a way to keep Abby occupied.  What I loved about our house in Texas was that our playroom and our TV room were separate, so the kids could play without constantly asking to watch TV.

it was supposed to be a living/dining room, but it was the perfect playroom!

Fast forward to Virginia and a 3rd kid...there's a TV in our playroom now.  I knew it wasn't a good idea when we moved in, but we did it anyway because I wanted a dedicated kid space that didn't infringe on the adult space in this house (there's so little adult space here), and we bought new living room furniture...meaning I didn't really want the kids all over our nice new couch with food while they were watching their shows.  Around this time, my sister told us about a show called Team Umizoomi that we should check out--I was totally hesitant because it's not a PBS show, but I thought I would give it a try...branch out a little.  The kids fell in deep smit with that show.  Absolute adoration.  The first thing Alex says when he wakes up in the morning is, "Watch Bot?"  And I love it because it's educational (even though it's not PBS...)--Alex knows all his numbers because of that show (that's kind of embarrassing to admit. but it's true).  Our DVR is constantly 80% full of kids shows...Umizoomi, Clifford, WordWorld, SuperWhy, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mike the Knight, Doc McStuffins...we went a little nuts when we discovered other TV channels.  I try to limit the hours of TV, but sometimes when the boys are fighting and cooped up in the house, it's so easy to turn on a show and be able get my stuff done.  They don't watch any of the fluffy shows with few redeeming qualities (Spongebob or whatever those other annoying shows are), but I won't sugarcoat it: they watch a lot of TV.

Millie, Bot, and Geo--they have mighty math powers!

Now, what does all of this have to do with our current household experiment?  Well, last weekend, I told Jake that it was time for him to keep his diaper dry at naptime and bedtime.  I'm fully confident that he can do this--it's just laziness or a security issue, and I need to help him get over it and transition to underwear 24/7.  Without even thinking before I opened my mouth, I told him that he could watch his TV shows if his diaper stays dry...but not if it is wet.  We are now in Day 7 of No TV.  Seriously, the kid is stubborn.  The first day, it felt like I was punishing everyone--Abby was very upset to not see her Clifford during breakfast, and I thought my day would be ruined without the TV helping keep the peace.  It's not really fair to deprive the other kids of their beloved TV because of Jake's behavior, but really, it's just TV--it's not like I'm withholding all their food until Jake gets his act together.  There are worse things that could happen.  I just didn't really envision that Jake would hold out this long--he actually says, "I don't want to watch TV" when I try to remind him that if he keeps his diaper dry, he can earn his TV back.  (Oooh, that kid!)  I'm not sure this experiment is working, but I'm in it to win it at this point--I will outlast my 3-year-old.  I've actually been pleasantly surprised at how the TV-less days have been going--Jake and Alex are doing really well playing together (with the occasional screaming/hitting/crying fights, of course), and I'm happy to not have the arguing over what show to watch, whose turn it is to pick, and the constant noise.  I kinda feel like a better mother without the TV.  Of course, when Jake finally figures out this whole keeping-the-diaper-dry thing, I'm going to have to let them earn back some TV, but I think this experiment is teaching me that I can limit the TV time, and I should limit it...the world won't fall apart and we might all learn to get along a little better with less TV.  What's your bet on how many days this experiment will drag on before Jake is diaper-free?

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