When I was pregnant, my husband and I did a lot of thinking about what kind of parents we wanted to be. How would we teach our baby-to-be about the world? What values would we exemplify in our lives? What aspects of Judaism would be important to us? And of course–what were we absolutely, positively, sure we would never do?
One of the things on that no-way list was letting our kids watch TV/movies anywhere and everywhere. I remember one Friday evening when we went to a restaurant in our neighborhood and saw a family of four having a lovely dinner out. (Ah, the days of being able to celebrate the restfulness of Shabbat by going out to dinner on a Friday night without needing a babysitter!) But when I looked closer, I saw that the daughter was listening to music on her ipod and the son was watching a dvd. I was really sad to see that. I thought to myself, “we’ll never let our kids do that.” After all, I’d grown up in a house where you weren’t even allowed to bring your book to the dinner table.
I’ve seen it more and more lately. There’s even a new restaurant in my kid-friendly neighborhood that caters to that mentality–they have booths with televisions and the kids can choose from an assortment of dvds. When I asked a friend about it, she said it was the only way she and her husband could enjoy a nice dinner.
I don’t know about that.
Now, my daughter isn’t quite 2 yet, so I haven’t faced this head-on the same way some of you have–but shouldn’t there be other ways to enjoy a nice dinner? Aren’t there other toys, games, or activities that you can bring to the table if you need your child to be entertained? Lately crayons and stickers have been our distraction of choice–and it seems to be working. When it stops working, I’ll try to find something else. To me, the ipod (with its videos of Laurie Berkner) is our last resort–and only used if one of us can’t take her out of the restaurant.
Of course I’m realistic, and I’ve broken my own rules a couple of times too. At one of our Passover seders at a friend’s house, when we hadn’t wrapped up by 9 pm, and we weren’t putting our daughter to sleep there, we might have let her sit at the table watching a dvd. (Okay, we did let her sit at the table watching a dvd.) But those were extenuating circumstances–we should’ve thought ahead and brought the pack n play and let her go to sleep. My mom told me that my grandfather was probably rolling over in his grave at the thought of tv at the seder. I agree–which is enough incentive for me to not ever do that one again.
There was an article in the New York Times recently about families that were too plugged in–though they all sit in their living room together, each person has his/her own screen (from ipads to tv to cell phones) and thus, are totally separate. That’s not what I want for my family. So I’m going to do my damnedest not to let it happen. How? Starting with me. If I have fewer screens in my life, so will my husband, and so will our daughter.
I’m determined to do it. What about you?