The Week the TV Died

The day the TV diedWe just returned from a two-month venture away from home, one of the perks of being a stay-at-home-mom with a teacher hubby. We drove several thousand miles over that time. The children were ready to be home. I was ready for a break, ready to not be “on” all the time. We came home to a power-surged television and Blu-ray player. Our only television and Blu-ray player. Did I mention I stay at home with three children and my husband is a school teacher? Going out and dropping a load of cash was not in the cards after the summer we just had (ever?). But fortunately, the TV was under warranty and could be fixed for free. In 19 days.

The official mom in me said, “We don’t need TV anyway; the AAP discourages prolonged screen time; play with your toys; use your imagination.” We don’t have cable anyway. I painted a picture of simpler times and the importance of creativity in child development. I glamorized our lives to that of a natural family magazine cover shoot. Oh, the opportunity! Oh the solitude! Unofficially I was a little rattled. I often sat up late at night with the 4-month-old, nursing. With hubby going out of town for a week, I needed the occasional assistance of a television for very basic needs—like mama’s gotta shower and momma needs to fix dinner!

We don’t own smart phones, but we have more than one screen. Our laptop and tablet ended up getting a little heavier-than-usual use by the end of the 19 days. We survived. Did we learn anything?

TV is overrated. Our kids woke up and played quietly without bother. They didn’t ask much at all that first week about the television or when it would make its return. We spent more time with books and playing with toys. I often use television as a tool when I need to get something done (like call customer service, etc.) or just need to take a deep breath because, you know, I have a young infant, toddler, and preschool-aged kid. Turns out toys did a pretty similar job as television with the whole “keeping them occupied” concern. In fact, they seemed to play together a little more with less distraction because the TV wasn’t there.

TV is underrated. Like I said, mama needs a quick shower with the assurance that something has her children’s attention. Few things are as mesmerizing as a new episode of Super Why! Mama needs a few minutes of peace sometimes, especially if she (or daddy) is a single parent or sick or has other additional, situational challenges. Also I can’t juggle a screen while nursing. We don’t have a smartphone and the laptop distracted the babe. I tried. More than once. I certainly got my minutes of peace! They occurred late in the night for the most part while baby nursed. Peace turned into a little aimless boredom because nursing a young babe is very time and energy consuming. You sit a lot. And, turns out, without a television late in the night when your mind is beyond tired, you stare at the wall, a lot.

There was not newfound solitude or deep satisfaction with life. I’ve heard the terms float around—the “no TV kid” or “low media kid.” I suppose we are already low media, and we do that rather purposefully though not as fervently as possible. I don’t think removing the television made all that much difference. Perhaps this is because I’m already mindful of limiting screen time and “cultivating intrinsically motivated, independent exploration” or because this venture lasted less than three weeks. Life was pretty much the same for us, and no life-changing development occurred so far as I could see.

There was newfound solitude and deep satisfaction with life. Sitting in the quiet at the end of a long day while I nursed my babe would previously include an episode of some old show on Netflix. Turns out the quiet was nice for me more than the children in that I spent those evening hours reading or processing the day. I spend time with my daughter all day but not being distracted by television allowed me to spend that last hour more aware and appreciative of her presence in my life as she settled into sleep. You know, all that “cherish every moment” stuff older parents mention? I did. Perhaps if anyone benefited from the lack of television in our home it was me. Turns out instead of going a little crazier I found a little peace.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 4 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Tags: development, family, media, newborn, preschooler, stress, toddler, travel

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