Week 28: I Understand TV as a Babysitter Now
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
(Which isn’t to say that I resort to this frequently.)
But, mea culpa, Experienced Parents. Mea culpa.
I’m probably a bit more strict in my opinions about how much TV I let my daughter watch. Before she was 18 months old, my opinion was that she didn’t need any TV. At all. Between 18 and 24 months, I thought, A few minutes won’t hurt. Maybe nature shows are okay.
Then between 2 years old and 3 years old, she developed an active interest in TV. Who were all these characters on her classmate’s lunch bags and backpacks? Who were the princesses that adorned the dress-up clothes at school? Who was this magical big-eared mouse that everyone called Mickey? Who was Thomas the Tank Engine and did he exist in our house?
I was okay with Dora the Explorer. No problem. It had a focus on problem-solving and language skills. Clifford the Big Red Dog also seemed fine. It taught her social and relationship skills.
And although I find it incredibly boring, I had to admit that Thomas the Tank Engine was fine, too. The episodes focused on managing relationships and contributing to society, or “being really useful” as all the engines call it.
We weren’t exactly sure how many episodes of TV was too much for her. We played it by ear. Two twenty-minute episodes seemed okay. If we let her roll into a third episode, we would get more noticeable push-back when we tried to turn it off. Clearly, after that much time, she had the expectation that another episode was just around the corner.
How we’ve been monitoring our daughter’s media use so far aligns well with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recently updated recommendations for children’s media use. Although I will say that the few times that we tried video-chatting between 18-24 months were not good experiences. While I was at a conference in Toronto, Canada, I video-chatted our then 18-month-old daughter a few times. As soon as we disconnected the call, she started crying and ran to the door to look for me, convinced that I had just left the room.
Talk about breaking your heart.
Among the AAP’s new media use recommendations is this statement,
For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
In theory, I totally agree. Yes. More time outside time. More play time. Go to your room and play with toys! Color! Get out your Play Dough! Dress up! Be a kid!
But the tired, 7-month pregnant side of me mumbles, Oh my God, just sit in one place like a zombie for an hour so I can rest. Let the magical TV cast its powerful spell of distraction so you will not move from that chair, come hell or high water.
Then a thought occurs to me.
“Hold on,” I shout from the couch where I’m almost passed out. “Do you need to pee?”
“NOOOO!!!! I don’t NEED to go potty!!” she screams.
And then I’m back to not caring.
Can I just say, that hefting around 25 extra pounds (which incessantly pushes against your bladder, your intestines,and your spine) really, really tires you out. By 3:00 p.m. on most days, my body feels like it’s 8:00 p.m. By 5:30 when I’m making dinner/ unloading the dishwasher/ re-loading it with new dishes, I feel like it’s 10:30.
By 9:00 p.m. when I fall into bed, I feel like it’s 2:00 a.m.
So imagine how I feel at 9:30 p.m. After I’ve fed, bathed, dressed, and read to our daughter. When she tenderly pushes open our bedroom door and says…
…I’m not tired.
When she did that last week while my husband was still outside doing some kind of yard work at 9:00 p.m., I had no cutesy, sympathetic words for her.
I just looked at her and said, “Go lie down in your bed. Right now. I don’t care if you sleep or read a book. Just stay in your bed.”
So, Experienced Parents, I get it.
I totally get the desire–nay, the need–to sometimes sit your child in front of the TV so you can just get through the day.