I feel so qualified to write this post because as I am writing, Henry is watching Thomas and Friends on Netflix =)
Our kids hardly ever watch television - like they go weeks without ever watching any television. I don't usually tell people this. You see, there's not really a good way to say it without people feeling judged. If I do say it, people start making defensive statements. And I don't want to judge anyone or for them to feel judged so I just usually nod and smile if a tv show reference comes up.
But I'd like to tell you a couple of secrets about our kids' TV life (or lack there of):
They NEVER ask to watch TV - never. When they do watch TV or a movie, we have suggested it.
We have NO RULES about TV. No limits on how much they watch or when they watch. If you asked our kids what the TV rules were, they would look at you like you were crazy.
They have no idea they are restricted. It's just not something they are interested in.
Can I tell something else? I used to be addicted to TV. I'd turn it on as soon as I got home from work just to have something playing in the background while I did laundry or cooked. I'd have it on something like TLC (which used to be more like HGTV). And I still love watching a good TV show at night with Adam. But something happened - we had Caroline.
I think it was at Caroline's 2 week well visit, that we asked about TV. We were not interested in her watching TV. We had heard that babies could have seizures from being overstimulated by TVs - like just being in the room where a TV was turned on. I was expecting the answer to be something like "Oh just don't keep her right in front of the TV" or "limit how often she's around it". Adam and I just wanted to watch some of our own shows and we were those first time parents who asked the doctor every little thing. But Dr. G came back strong with an absolute "No TV until 2 years old." I thought I must be hearing things, but she continued to explain all the crazy affects and said it shouldn't even be on if she was in the room.
Anyway, back then we did whatever Dr. G said and so if Caroline was in the room, the TV was off. And something so amazing happened. I appreciated quiet. I came to love my quiet moments with my baby - with nothing but the sounds of her coos. It's hard to describe and honestly, I don't realize how wonderful it is until we have a day where the TV is on for some reason and I am bothered by the extra noise.
Can TV really do that much damage to a kid? Was our super strictness necessary? I'm sure the answer to both of those is "No." But I am so grateful we were that crazy with Caroline.
It has brought back a sensitivity to sound in our family - sounds that are voices, needs, whispers and laughs.
It has made siblings best friends because of the hours they play together.
And can I tell you another secret? In my limited, 3 child experience, I have realized that this "plan" was the hardest with the first child until she was about 2.5 years old. Why? Because babies and toddlers don't know how to entertain themselves. We are their constant entertainment and it is exhausting. There was temptation to put Caroline in front of the TV from the time I needed get ready in the morning to the time I needed to get dinner made in the evening, but because of Dr. G we were determined. And by the time she was about 2.5, she was such a great independent kid. She could entertain herself for hours with imaginary games and with her toys.
It's not as hard with the subsequent children because you have other bigger kids they are going to for entertainment at those young ages. Everyone sort shares/enjoys the burden of entertaining the youngest - except during the "witching hour" when it's every man for himself ;)
One more bonus that I attribute to our kids' TV life, is that they are never bored. They never tell me they don't know what to do. They are always crafting and playing. I'm not saying our kids are perfect. They are far from it. And they do argue and yell at each other, but boredom is not a problem we face - knock on wood.
We do watch TV. Adam and I like to watch a show together a few nights a week. We like Bloodline, Daredevil and other shows. Currently we are watching Star Trek the Next Generation. I love to pull up a show on Netflix for Henry when we are at a doctor's office or waiting for a car in the shop.
Seven years ago, I thought I was losing something when we turned off the TV. Turned out I was gaining something huge. I feel like I control TV now - it doesn't control me. And Caroline and Lucy control TV - it doesn't control them (though they don't know any different). It is a gift. And I never miss it. I often turn on the TV and realize I haven't turned it on in 4-5 days.
It is a tool - a fantastic, helpful and fun tool. And that is it's place in our family.