I've been conducting a little experiment this month with the chiddren. Back in December it occurred to me somewhat painfully that Bean's time in front of the TV had increased to completely unacceptable quantities. In short, she watched, she watched more, she craved more, she lost her ability to think of anything else to do, she begged, whined, and even cried for it all throughout her waking hours the times I put my foot down and said No. When I really allowed myself to think about it, which I was loathe to do, as y'all know I am a loyal wearer of the ruby spectacles, I felt SO DISAPPOINTED IN MYSELF for allowing my sweet, bubbly, bright, creative little girl to become a complete unequivocable TV junky. Coach potato. Video vegetable.
So I marked January 1 as the day I'd just turn the confounded thing off and deal with the consequences I'd signed up for by using that evil box to play mind-scramble with my baby while I got on with the business of keeping up with Peabody and running the household. I knew I was in for it, though, and as the day loomed closer on the iCalendar, I'd nearly QUAKE with dread over what was to come. If she was fighting me HARD about the TV being left in the upright and locked position for an hour or two a day, what on earth would she do when I just unplugged that bad boy for good.
I never said a word about it to her as December stretched on. I let her have her boob tube fun as she so chose - the business of Christmas did work to my advantage as she didn't get quite her normal belly-full every single day. Still, she was couch-bound for hours most days, her glazed eyes glued but vacant, her three middle fingers plugged resolutely into that saucy little mouth. But come January first, she crawled into bed with us as dawn stole quietly into the room. She reached for the remote, as was her custom, and I said "No TV this morning. We'll find other things to do."
And she balked slightly, but the panic attack I'd expected didn't ever materialize. Throughout that first day, she asked a couple of times to turn on the TV, and I said no. The next day, she didn't even ask in the morning. When she did, I just said,"No TV, honey. Go play!"
Honestly? When I look at it in the rear-view mirror, I think she's been waiting for this. A forcing of her hand and mind back to activity and imagination. She seems mostly happier this way - I hear her now playing on her own, narrating stories of FASHION GIRLS and DANCE CLASS and PRINCESSES ON UNICORNS. Yesterday in the late afternoon - a dark and cold and gray afternoon and a time I'd usually pop popcorn and let the kids watch a movie - she asked for a video and I just said, "How about if you and Peabody build a pillow pit on the floor and jump in it instead?" and she whimpered a little bit and then got busy doing just that. It is, and will always be, with Bean, I think, up to me to help her little mind see the possibilities for fun and creativity (and that takes quite a bit of time, which along with fundraising for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure constitutes my excuse du jour for not getting to blog here as often as I really, really, REALLY wish I could), but by and large, with my firmly foot down and the TV off, she's thriving and hungry for more "good stuff" than she has been since her brother was born.
I was so excited, y'all, when, about 4 days into our experiment she came to me and asked, "Mom, when can we start doing our reading lessons again?" See, about 6 months ago, we'd started working on Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Engelmann) together. Back then, each lesson with her was a 30 minute struggle and I eventually gave up and decided she just wasn't ready yet (even though my gut felt she was, and that her issues had more to do with desire than ability). Lo and behold, with the TV out of the picture, she quickly got interested on her own and continues to ask EVERY DAY for that lesson. We'll do Lesson 30 today - my daughter is READING and I'm teaching her! Those of you who have experienced this process will know what I mean when I say this is one of the most awesome (and I mean awesome in its most traditional iteration) and rewarding things I've ever done. It's AMAZING.
And don't get me wrong, I don't think TV is 100% evil or even bad for children. I will reintroduce it in very small doses as I see appropriate beginning next month, now that we've got her detoxed from mindless viewing and me detoxed from not having to invest my energies into guiding her in her quest for entertainment. I see the value of educational programming (good heaven's after watching 962 hours of Word Girl, the child has a vocabulary that rivals mine!) and I LOVE it when we all sit down as a family and watch a good movie or an hour of the Food Network together. But I will keep TV to a bare minimum from now on and watch my kids' minds bloom with creativity and imagination. Too much joy to be missed by doing it any other way.