Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Freaking Television

“Can I watch a show?”

That is the first question I get in the morning, and the one I’m most often badgered with throughout the day. The moment there is any idle time, a lull in the action. Can I watch a show. Rainy days are the worst.

The answer is usually no. We’re not strict anti-television parents. Far from it. But the kids ask so often that the usual answer is just no.

When the first kid was born, we decided we would not let our new child watch television at all. Then we got our first Baby Einstein DVD, and it so stopped the crying. We softened our stance.

Then came the Wiggles. Our first kid loved the Wiggles, including this bizarre crush on Jeff – the one that sleeps a lot. Wiggles ruled our house for a solid two years. It was mildly entertaining, though I couldn’t help but thinking me and three friends with fake instruments could do as good a job. I mean, how hard is it to sing about spaghetti?

Our kid became a Wiggle junkie – images of teen aged girls screaming for the Beatles haunted me. I didn’t want to raise a future groupie.

The Wiggle phenomenon made us once again re-evaluate our television rules. We cut back, set more standards and established guidelines. But it was too late. Our oldest child was already a television junkie. Personally, I think she came out that way -- prewired to become a zombie whenever the television was on. After all, she comes from a long line of television watchers.

With the second child, we decided again not to plop her in front of the television unless we had to – like for child care management. We ended up turning on the television more often than we would have liked. But busy parents have few options.

Luckily, by the time our second kid was of TV watching age, the Wiggles were in the where-are-they-now category. Apparently they are still there, with a new front man. But we have managed to avoid them. It helped that the second kid immediately preferred Wonder Pets to grown men signing bad songs. And once she discovered the Backyardigans – it was all over. For the uninitiated, the Backyardigans are a real step up from most of the crap we show our kids. A ringing endorsement.

When the third kid came along, she was lucky if she ever engaged in age-appropriate viewing. Her older sisters ruled the schedule. It wasn’t until they went off to school that she got to choose what she watched. Unfortunately, she chose Yo Gabba Gabba. Mind-numbing stuff. The only thing it’s good for is taking a quick dad nap. Makes me kind of miss the “fruit salad” days of my early dadhood.

As for the baby boy, he is still too young to be truly entranced by the digital babysitter. Though, all he ever really sees is Suite Life On Deck. God help him.

Nowadays, the eldest is still the one who asks to watch a show most often, and clearly the dictator of the programing, which means Phineas and Ferb, the Suite Life and their spin-offs and the god-awful Pair of Kings, the premise of which is so absurd it makes Lost seem like a reality show. All of this barely fills the void in her life left when Hannah Montana ended, of course.

During the school year, the oldest is only allowed to watch television on weekends. But in the summer, all hell breaks loose.

Clearly, we have lost the war on television. All we can do now is minimize our losses and win an occasional battle.

We still maintain a ban on certain programs, because they are purposely obnoxious or dreadfully boring – Sponge Bob and Kick Butowski fall into the first category, Thomas into the second. The worst are the Disney shows that stray into “dating” themes. Like I need my six-year-old learning about breaking up with a boyfriend. No thanks.

But, we’ve learned that a little television is not the end of the world. I watched a lot of television when I was a kid. The currency of quotes I learned helped me make friends and impress people in the decades that followed. I’m sure “Sweet Niblets” has replaced “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?” on the common-usage scale.

The challenge is limiting the television so it doesn’t rule everything. So when they ask if they can watch a show, I usually say no.

No comments: