Monday, November 14, 2011

T is for Television and Twinkies

The first morning of saying Yes was pretty easy. It was a no school day and my kids were attending an all day gymnastics camp with their friends. They were out the door before any of us had time to explore what it means for me to say yes.

We didn't have one of these.
It was a different story when they came home. They wanted to watch T.V.

At this point I feel I should explain something. My parents were transplants to Oregon, the kind that came from a big city in search of a better life, organic food and sustainable living. Part of that better life, according to my parents, included NO television. At some point before I was born, my mother kicked T.V. to the curb and it was about fifteen years before it made a reappearance in any form.

My husband, on the other hand, was the third boy in his family. By the time he came along, television was a foregone conclusion. If you wanted to watch television you turned it on, sat down and watched.

These weren't part of my childhood either!
The difference between our relationships with television is like the difference between Twinkies and Trail mix sweetened with carob. Because I suffered through a childhood of teachers assigning essays on the subject of your favorite Saturday morning cartoon character and people regularly accusing me of not growing up in this country due to my complete ignorance about shows like the A-Team and Cheers, I decided to make a different choice for my kids. They would watch T.V. Not as much as my husband did, but more than I had. We would achieve a happy medium.

Still, every time they ask to watch T.V. I have a little pang. Shouldn't they be reading, playing with legos, sewing with hemp or something? Is watching Avatar the Last Airbender really the best use of their time? When they ask to watch T.V. I tend to stall. I say things like, "I suppose you could, but I was thinking we could all make cookies first," or "T.V.'s not really an after school activity. It's more of a Saturday morning kind of thing."

Okay, so cut to the chase. It's after gymnastics camp. They want to watch T.V. I take a deep breath and say Yes. They scamper down to the basement and I make dinner. Thirty minutes later they reappear. "Can we watch another episode?" Another deep breath followed by another Yes. My son kisses my hand. "You're the nicest mommy ever," he tells me. The realization begins to dawn that my T.V. based split-personality might be out of control.
Maybe I wasn't missing that much!
My husband gets home. "Where are the kids?"

"Downstairs watching T.V."

He goes down to the basement and, from the kitchen I hear him say, "Okay, that's enough T.V. Time to turn it off."
It feels good! And you know what? I do feel a little bit lighter, more joyful, maybe even more fulfilled. What remains to be seen is whether it's the saying Yes or just not having to be the one to insist it's time to turn it off. 

Author's note: Those of you who know me well, will also know I had to Google 80's television shows to come up with those references to the A-Team and Cheers. Those of you who don't know me as well, now understand the full extent of my complete cluelessness about late 70's and 80's media!


Hart Johnson said...

Oh, too funny. I was a latchkey kid. There was no one home to monitor what I watched. When I was little, babysitters didn't have them. And at my grandmas, it was sort of an 'afternoon indulgence' but once I was in school, it was usually an older neighbor kid who watched me for a couple hours, so you KNOW the TV was on. All. The. Time.

I intended to be different. My daughter only got PBS and movies the whole time we were in Portland, but we moved when she was 5 and in Ann Arbor you HAVE to have cable or you get NOTHING. I gave in on Nickolodian and Disney Family and it has been all downhill since.

Doesn't help that hubby seems to always need it on. (we only had one in the basement until recently, too, but the dad/kid battles wore me down... now HIS is upstairs and kids get down. (I get my TV via Hulu)

I totally hear you on YOU not being the one to say no. I think that's big.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And you didn't have to play the bad guy, either!

SBJones said...

Our family didn't get tv until I was in high school. We lived out in the country where it simply didn't reach.

I still don't own a tv in my house. Besides there is nothing but pharma commercials non stop. Netflix is where it's at.

Johanna Garth said...

Hart, I would have been so envious of you when I was in sixth grade!!

Alex, I know. It was so nice!

SB, nice to know I'm not the only one who doesn't get tv references.

Tamara Narayan said...

TV is is double whammy for me. I don't like it when my kids zone out in front of it, but I often say yes because it gives me time for chores, reading, or having a relaxing meal. TV is like a pause/mute button for my kids and I feel guilty using it.

Kathleen Barker said...

Most people's attitude toward TV is generational. I'm betraying my age by remembering our family spending lots of time watching variety shows on a little black and white box, still in its infancy. The debut of color TV held legions in its thrall. And I think we'd be less overweight as a nation if we weren't constantly bombarded with food commercials on network TV. Love your take on topics, Johanna!