My parents have been visiting for a little over a month. Those of you who do not know my parents are feeling a twinge of pity for me or are groaning at the thought of having guests at your home for that extended a period of time, but those of you who do know my parents know 1) how thoughtful and kind they are, and 2) that they are machines that fix, clean, build, paint, design and garden, while babysitting two children and with a hand tied behind each of their backs and you are feeling a twinge of relief for me and you are also wishing that my parents would visit your house for 5 weeks too.
Also it is the hockey playoffs. So we thought we would get cable television, something we haven’t had in our home for a couple of years now, managing just fine with a computer hooked up to our television set and surfing Hulu, Amazon on Demand, Netflix and the like. But grandparents should not be expected to figure out the mess of remote controls, receivers, dials, buttons and levers that come with such an arrangement if they are not already inclined to figure this stuff out and frankly, who has the time when there are guest rooms to paint, dahlias to be planted and playhouses to be built. Just let them have their cup of tea and watch Dancing with the Stars in peace, for crying out loud, so they can go to bed already, the kids are up at 6:30.
Which means that in the span of 5 weeks my daughter has become hooked on Dancing with the Stars and both my daughter and son are hooked on American Idol. Those of you who know my children don’t see this as a big surprise, since my son already plays guitar at the tender age of two and looks like a young Bruce Springsteen
and my 4 year old dancer already has a habit of assembling everyone in the fancy living room for various plays, dance shows and concerts of her creation.
The eternal parenting question for me is “Are my children watching too much television?”
According to the American Pediatric Association, which recommends 2 hours of TV a day max (I can work with that) and a big fat zero hours of TV a day for children under two (wha?? Even if your 22 month old is up at 5:30 AM and you’re in your first trimester and you should have baked those cookies for the playdate yesterday? Not fair!! [p.s. not pregnant, I just remember how awful it was to limit TV at that time]), then the kids are alright, or at least now that they are 2 they are. According to all sets of grandparents, the kids are more than alright and frankly I should cut myself a break and turn on some Looney Tunes, it’s not gonna hurt them. According to all the moms I know and admire, I am not doing nearly enough crafting and playing outside with my kids (though I suspect I am being a bit hard on myself here, since I know that most of the moms I know and admire let their kids watch TV because they are the ones who told me about Dinosaur Train and Busytown Mysteries).
Oh and P.S. I am NOT judging you for how much TV you or your kids watch in your house. Different house, different rules. You do what you got to do Mama. noneofmabizness.
The answer for our family has always been about 1.5 hours of TV a day, at 5:00 PM, so that I can get dinner on the table. That’s 3 episodes of whatever, with maybe a 4th one if dinner is going to be special or is going off the rails.
The problem however has always been that my daughter asks to watch TV from the moment she wakes straight up to 5:00 PM. It’s embarrassing, frankly, and I’ve struggled with how to deal with this. A firm “not till 5:00″ rule doesn’t really work because if I am to be honest with myself and with you, the truth is that sometimes I let her split the 1.5 hours into two blocks and she watches an episode while I put Beck down for a nap. If I am to be really honest, sometimes she uses up the whole 1.5 hours while Beck is napping and then I get some stuff done, damn it, like catch up on Pinterest. Then I’m really up the creek for dinner but on the plus side, Beck has not watched any TV that day.
I started joking with her that she was becoming a TV zombie, someone who doesn’t think of anything but TV and how boring is that? (want to play outside? TVTVTVTVTV want to bake cookies? TVTVTVTVTV want to build a fort, do a puzzle, go for a bike ride, get an ice cream? TVTVTVTVTV). She thought this was hilarious and rather than get the point, she just started walking around with her arms stretched out and her eyes closed mumbling “TVTVTVTVTV”, but still wanting to watch TV.
Enter Pinterest to the rescue, where I got the dandy idea for technology tickets, and I was on a mission. Mine are nowhere near that pretty of course, because I am not that kind of crafter, but you get the idea (I also am a sub-par photographer. Yikes!).
So now the new rule in the house is: you can’t even say the word TV unless you have a ticket in your hand to back it up. And they (well, Pip) can choose when to watch TV, which seems fair. You get 3 tickets a day, and when those tickets are gone, man, they’re gone. (Except for 3 Bonus tickets, which are awarded at my discretion, for those days when things go off the rails). Also note that 4 tickets = 1 movie, which is incentive to save up those tickets once in a while. Also, although a TV episode is really only 22 minutes, you get a full 30 minutes of games on the iPad, because those are more “educational”.
So far it’s going brilliantly, which means that it works 80% of the time.
I was going to talk about what Pip is watching now and how i am trying to navigate age-appropriate television viewing, which FYI, is a nightmare, but this post is way longer than I thought it would be and you can only ask so much of grandparents. Story for another time!