I love to read and I average three literary novels a month. But I also admit, without shame, to loving TV. And except for Modern Family, now that Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire are off the air for the season, there is just not that much to watch.
Except the really dumb shows. Which I love.I dumped the Housewives (even I have standards) and I am almost over the Bachelor. Except those wackadoodles somehow manage to make strangely compelling TV. Even my sons and husband pause to watch it when it’s on. I also have TLC on in the background way too much and Say Yes to the Dress is one of my favorites. (Too bad Labor and Delivery is gone–I loved crying over that one.)
I watched lots of TV when I was a kid. Everybody did. It wasn’t thought of as a no-no to let your kid watch anything from Howdy Doody to Father Knows Best after school, on weekends, any time. Even The Three Stooges (a weird combination of comedy and violence, when I think back on it) was OK. We kids used to watch even while we ate dinner.
But when my kids were growing up, they were only allowed to watch Sesame Street and, later, some other shows on channel 13 (our local PBS station).
In those days (remember?) you had to press a button to get the channel you wanted so I put red nail polish on the button for 13. The kids could turn on the TV, press 13 and start to watch. Although occasionally they did watch by themselves while I did something else, mostly I tried to watch with them, to comment on, and later reinforce the letter of the day and the narratives. I think I liked Sesame Street as much as they did. It had wit and was educational without being didactic.
Only one of my kids liked Mr. Rogers, whom I disliked and, furthermore, just didn’t trust. He gave me the creeps. He was just too pleased at being able to catch his slipper when he threw it 3 inches in the air. And Mr. McFeeley? Seriously? That name isn’t a tip-off to something just a little weird in the “neighborhood?”
My daughter tells me she is still upset that I didn’t let her watch the Brady Bunch. OK, so I admit I was a little strict.
While my other daughter’s classmates were “all” watching Friends, I was uncomfortable with the sexual content for a 12 year old. The deal was that we watched it together so I could comment on the show and we could later talk about what went on and how we felt about it and the values it represented. To this day, I can’t look at any of the stars of that show without thinking of those nights sitting on the floor, enjoying my kid but disliking the program. Later, I plugged the same system in with my son and Seinfeld but that one was funny! Watching together was fun and provided opportunities to explore what the kids were thinking about.
Now I watch Dora and Diego or Wonder Pets with my grandchildren but draw the line at Yo Gabba Gabba (uch!) and the Wiggles. Really, everyone has to have their line in the sand.
With the wisdom of hindsight, I hereby state, without hesitation, despite anything you have heard from other experts (sic), that TV is OK. Even for toddlers, even an occasional stupid show. Sometimes moms just need to get things done and TV is your best friend. Sometimes your kid needs a little quiet time and TV is her best friend.
Of course, sitting glued to any kind of screen for long periods of time isn’t a great idea for anyone–so we need to watch the example we set with our phones, computers, and iPads. And monitoring what your kid watches goes without saying. But TV time can be part of a “healthy diet” that includes playing, listening to music, reading, talking, taking walks, running errands together, and cuddling. And, if at all possible, watching together is better for your team–you and your child.
Most of my generation, despite the unlimited TV watching, is pretty sane and high-achieving. And so is yours.
So let them watch- without guilt or shame! And let them enjoy!
Maybe I’ll turn on Sesame Street for old time’s sake. Say Yes to the Dress is a re-run.