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Television

My Kids Don’t Watch TV

kids watching tv

There. I said it.

Go ahead, pitch me on the merits of “Baby Einstein” and walk me through how your 2-year-old can count to 10 in Hebrew, English, and Spanish thanks to Dora. Your toddler is a frigging genius. Mine still poops in the bathtub.

Horror of horrors—they don’t play computer games either. I am steadying myself for the onslaught of criticism—They’ll miss social cues! They won’t develop hand-eye coordination! They will be technologically and culturally behind! Forcing them to climb trees and have water balloon fights is KILLING YOUR BABIES! I know, I’ve been receiving this very constructive and absolutely welcome feedback for years now, considering my oldest turns 8 this fall and cannot identify all of the Disney Princesses. Call social services.

READ: My Kids Do Watch a Teensy Bit of TV

Yes, this lifestyle decision makes my days harder, I won’t deny it. I may even yell at my kids more than the average mom, because I do not provide the “down-time” outlet of vegging in front of the TV while I cook dinner, fold laundry, or mop up the various bodily fluids my 16-year-old cat continuously leaks. “But they need relaxation time after school,” folks will say. Since when can kids not relax by playing? Uno. Puzzles. Books.

I am not an anti-technology crusader by any means. Please, I make my living on the Internet. I am intimately acquainted with Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson. I love Pinterest as much as the next girl, and I even have a board entitled “Disgusting Food I Cannot Believe Other People Would Make,” because I like to amuse myself.

Also, I’m not an extremist. TV or computer games are for two special occasions in our house: either we have a babysitter coming (OK, we go on dates like twice a year, but still) or one of the kids is sick. Illness trumps all—barfed? You get a program of your choice. Fever? Upgrade to a movie. Hospital visit? Go to town, kiddo—here’s the remote and some popcorn.

READ: The Case for Television

We do not exactly advertise the policies in our house to others, including the “Don’t want what’s for dinner? Starve” policy (it’s not very popular). But I’ve learned, over the years of chatting with other moms on the playground or in Facebook groups, that our style of parenting is considered outdated—or, according to one naysayer—prehistoric. It’s not necessarily all about what’s best for the kids every minute of the day (yes, I make my own chicken stock to avoid chemicals and yes, we also eat Skittles from time to time because they’re freakin’ good). It’s a matter of survival.

Yes, our no-screen goal was initially altruistic. But over the years, I’ve learned that the policy also eliminates conflict a.k.a nightmares. In other families, I’ve witnessed daily (hourly!) fits, bargaining, pleading and complex negotiations over screen time. Just 10 more minutes. Just five more minutes. While there is inevitably conflict in my house, we have unwittingly eliminated this particular flavor of strife.

Yes, once in a while, one of my children will return home from a birthday party, whining about feeling left out of the conversation. “But they’re talking about Big Brother-Justin Bieber-Sponge Bob-Princess Merida.”

Yes, my kids are sometimes out of the loop.

READ: Television Has Come A Long Way to Represent Queer Families Like Mine

We talk about advantages and disadvantages of our no screen time habits. I try to fill the void. We go to the zoo every other week. We are in the local park almost daily, and the Gymboree regularly. We attend festivals, story hour, and swimming lessons. We go camping. Once in a while, they pressure me into taking them to those horribly loud kid shows in the mall where famous-singer-wannabes jump around in costumes, giving out promotional magnets. I’d rather impale myself with a rusty skewer, Samuri-style, but I go.

There are pros and cons to every decision we make. I’m willing to risk the possibility of my kids not becoming military pilots due to their decided lack of video game prowess in order to foster imagination, communication, curiosity, and independence. So there.

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