Sunday, August 2, 2009

TV or Not TV?

When my daughter was little, I didn't let her watch TV. The truth is, I watch too much TV, and I didn't see the benefit of plopping a toddler in front of a TV set - not for her anyway. Sure, there were plenty of benefits for me, but the guilt outweighed nearly all of them.

Somewhere between 1 1/2 and 11 1/2, though, the rules changed. The child who couldn't still long enough to watch "Elmo's World" on Sesame Street has morphed into a 'tween who can watch back-to-back episodes of anything from The Wizards of Waverly Place to
House Hunters.

Her taste in TV is half-decent; it's just that I believe it should be an appetizer and she thinks it should be a six-course meal. I worry about it rotting her brain, robbing her of her love of reading, sucking every athletic impulse out of her body and turning her into a couch potato. Okay, maybe I need to dial the anxiety back a notch, but you get my drift.

When my daughter was small, I thought it would be a great idea to have my office off the living room so I could be close to my family and still be working. I could also monitor what was on the television, and how long it had been on.

Great in theory, but a bit shakier in execution. Close to my family? Yes. Working? Not so much. As someone who works best in a quiet setting, I find that many days, I'm exhausted from trying to work against a constant flow of laugh tracks and design renovations. I'd close the door if I had one, but since I can't, I become the TV police - the uncool mom who has to admit she can't truly focus on what's on one screen against the volume of what's on another.

Don't get me wrong - I have no problem turning off the TV, or shooing my daughter into another room so she can watch yet one more episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. The problem is that once I do that, the clock starts ticking. I have sent my child to the electronic babysitter, and I feel obligated to do my work in a timely fashion so I can pick her up at a reasonable hour.

Never mind that she's perfectly content in front of the TV, away from the TV Police-mom. Never mind that she has little interest in "doing something" with me. The clock is ticking away time I should be spending with my child while I allow her potential to trickle away, her eyes glued to the latest episode of Jonas.

As I look back on those first eighteen months of my daughter's life, my self-imposed TV-free zone, I simultaneously shake my head ("what was the big deal?") and pat myself on the back ("it was exhausting, but you did it!") I suspect that when I look back on these 'tween viewing habits, my feelings will be similar. I know where my daughter is and what she's doing, and in the scheme of things, it's pretty harmless. And while sometimes that toddler who wants mommy to play is still lurking inside my almost-twelve-year-old, most days, she'd rather be watching Say Yes to the Dress. Which is pretty normal for an almost-twelve-year-old.

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