Monday, April 21, 2008

National TV Turnoff Week

This week (April 21-27) is National TV Turnoff week. Yes - this is an actual event, started by a group of people who were clearly watching too much TV. I'm not sure about the history of when or where it originated (or who exactly it was watching too much TV), but I've caught wind of it in a couple of places these past few months and LOVED the idea. Gross national statistics aside (the average American youth spends 900 ours in school but 1500 in front of the TV, 66% of US families watch TV during dinner, half of children ages 6-17 have TVs in their bedroom, etc.), I am starting to get concerned about the amount of TV time in this household. Which is really interesting, given the evolution of screen time in our family.

Once upon a time when Cade was a baby (and until he was almost 3), he watched zero TV. I registered for Baby Einstein videos because the few moms I knew told me they were educational and stimulating and really, who can argue with a video that claims to turn your child into a Baby Mozart. But I could never quite bring myself to pop one in. And yes, in case you're wondering, his first toys were age appropriate books, his first taste of cake was at his first birthday party (featuring a nutritious yet baby friendly carrot cake), and he never had a drop of juice to drink until he was close to a year and a half old. I was pretty granola back in those days.

Then along came Drew, 17 months after Cade. Desperate for time to nurse, shower, and pee, I cracked open the Baby Einsteins and wished that Cade would magically develop an attention span long enough to watch one. No dice - I had already spoiled him. He was way more into Clown Mom than watching a pull toy duck crawl at a snail's pace across the screen to an annoying tinkling song that makes you want to punch the TV.

At some point (I'm not sure when since I had long stopped filling out the baby books by this point), Drew became interested in TV. A more mellow child by nature, he was content to watch the duck do its thing and even hung in there long enough to watch the psychedelic swirls do their thing. And then we learned that Cade loved Elmo (through books before he ever saw him on TV) and music, so we could actually buy a little peace and quiet if we picked our programming carefully. It was all downhill from there.

We limit screen time, naturally, but I have noticed it creeping up to uncomfortable levels lately. I almost always count on it for the dinner prep hour - I can't make dinner with rug rats underfoot so The Wiggles are my saving grace. Then I became pregnant (and exhausted) for the third time and realized I was counting on Curious George to keep Cade entertained during Drew's nap so I could catnap. Then there were the assorted times where I just needed them out of my hair - for a phone call, an uninterrupted conversation with their father, or just to read the Sunday paper. And suddenly I found myself feeling as irritated by their pleas for TV as their pleas for junk food - how did we get from carrot birthday cake and fabric covered books to this point, anyway?

So Aaron officially put the kids on notice today. They seemed to take the news in stride, until he pointed out that "no TV" means no DVDs or videotapes either. And he unplugged the TV just to make sure. We survived the first day OK, but I'm still anxious about the rest of the week, mainly because it means more gigs for Clown Mom . And I'm wondering if computer counts as TV ( buys me as much time as Maya and Miguel). Stay tuned. And will someone please let me know when National Throw Out the Junk Food Week is?

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