It’s 9:30 a.m. It’s raining outside and your playdate cancelled due to HFM. The twins have been fighting since before they got out of bed with no end in sight. There’s play-doh on the floor and poop on your yoga pants. But WAIT – look! There is a magical box hanging up on your wall that will magically make everybody happy for hours and all you have to do is turn it on. When the magic box is on you can go shower, clean the dishes or even call your sister. Why WOULDN’T you turn it on??
Well…because too much TV is bad. And if you give your kids too much TV, society says that you are a bad mom.
“How much TV is too much” is one of the great mysteries of motherhood…right up there with “am I too drunk to nurse?” and “how long can I get away with swearing in front of my kids?” Nobody knows, and I suspect that it is different for each kid.
Dr. H and I grew up under very different TV access regimes. His tv watching was strictly limited to the occasional educational program, but he gleefully recalls regularly bingeing on cartoons at his grandma’s house. He graduated at the top of his class and went to a fancy college.
I grew up in a house with much less rules and spent countless days of my childhood laid back in a recliner letting the cool waves of Nickelodeon wash over my eyes for hours on end. My early educational performance was much less impressive than Dr. H’s and I did not matriculate at the Ivy’s (although I have to say that pulled it off at the end).
I know good moms on both sides of this – moms who have the TV on all day and moms (like my older sister) who don’t let their kids watch any at all. Everybody seems to have a different internal barometer on TV, but most SAHMs I know struggle with the balance.
As a clear result of his upbringing, Dr. H tries his hardest to restrict our kids’ TV watching time to a minimum, and only then to Sesame Street. I try to stay on the same page, but often find myself wanting to give into my kids, for both my happiness and theirs.
For example, D is obsessed with Paw Patrol. He has tons of Paw Patrol toys, bedding and stuffed animals. Paw Patrol is HIS thing. Dr. H and I both agree, however, that Paw Patrol is one giant advertisement for Paw Patrol merchandise and does nothing to teach kids anything (despite its claims to teach team building and helping out the community). So we try not to have Paw Patrol on. I constantly wonder though…is that mean? Is it cruel to not let him watch it? If D feels the same way about Paw Patrol that Dr. H felt about Mad Men, shouldn’t he allow his son to enjoy that show?
Clearly the answer is everything in moderation…but where is that line? When does your kid go from responsible TV enthusiast to TV addict? And what impact does it have on their development? Are they really learning from Elmo or does it even matter at all what they watch?
I will continue to use TV as a tool in my mommy tool box and will only occasionally give into their demands, mostly because I want to honor my co-parent’s requests. As with all great questions of parenting, only time will tell if we are doing this right.