I talk a lot about the pressure I put on myself as a parent and the guilt that inevitably follows when I don’t measure up (which is the majority of the time, frankly, since I rarely set realistic goals for myself). I’ve been thinking about one recurring source of guilt lately, although I’ve been reluctant to admit it here. But, what the hell, here goes nothing: I let my kid watch TV. Like, every single day. She even requests it by saying, “show?” I see half of you clutching your pearls and the other half like, “that’s it? Relax already.” Sigh.
Her favourite at the moment is Curious George. She usually watches it on the iPad while I prepare dinner and sometimes during breakfast, too. Then there are those days where she wakes from her nap and just won’t do anything without a fight except this one thing that will keep her calm and the day stretches before us and it’s all I can do to stay sane. I totally suck, right? And yes, before you yell at me, I am aware that they recommend kids under 2 get zero screen time. I know this and I still do it.
I used to babysit four brothers after school when I was a teenager. They were only allowed 30 minutes of TV per day, tops. As in, they had never watched an entire movie in their lives (at that point anyway). Classical music always quietly played in their bilingual, vegetarian home; each was skilled at something—the eldest even started composing music at age seven; and their parents, both lawyers, still managed to spend one-on-one time with each between their full work schedules and the kid’s fairly substantial extracurricular activities. I can’t say whether the lack of TV had anything to do with everything else, but what if it did? Either way, even as a grumpy, disinterested teen I could appreciate that their principles and discipline as parents were pretty impressive. As a mama myself now, it sometimes feels like every other parent I meet is a facsimile of them and I, instead, am the exact opposite.
I always imagined I would follow in their example, too. Certainly on the TV front. It’s a no brainer, right? What I never considered was that I actually love TV and may even be ever-so-slightly addicted to the damn thing, if I’m honest. I haven’t had cable in almost 10 years and yet I still manage to watch several hours daily (I guess I have streaming and TVO to thank for that). I watch when Leni’s asleep mostly, but when she and I are around the house during the day, I often leave the television on quietly in the background. I’m not totally sure why I do this, but I’m even more confounded as to why I find it so hard to stop. I feel like this is usually a second or third kid problem. I should not be so lazy with my first, right? It feels like half the parents I know don’t even own TVs and manage to fill every minute of their children’s days without “cheating” with mindless distractions.
I figure, like anything else, it may just take some practice on my part. I think I’m ready to make some minor changes though. I’ve started to play the radio or children’s music when I’m feeling that need for noise or when it is necessary to distract Leni for a moment so I can get something done or have a moment to myself. My friend suggested listening to podcasts or talk radio instead of turning on the TV, which I think I could totally get into. But, let’s be real, that’s not helping me distract the little one. In fact, I tried this at dinner last night and I have some new abstract art on my wall to show for it. So yes, it’s likely that I’ll continue to let the peanut watch “George” while I cook dinner sometimes, but I will commit to at least attempt an alternate distraction tactic first.
And I’m not saying I won’t Netflix binge after L’s bedtime, but I am definitely ready to improve my daytime habits. I owe it to her and myself to start somewhere. I don’t think television is all damaging and awful (like I said, I love it!), but I do think it’s important to limit Leni’s time in front of it. Also, I’m just sick of feeling guilty about this thing that is totally within my control to change, you know?
Next up, my phone problem.