A guilt free confession - My kids watch too much TV
I did feel guilty, in the beginning. I read lots of articles on how TV is making children lazy, making them fat, making them have a lower IQ etc etc etc.
I restricted it. My daughter had tantrums, which I ignored. We had no TV at all for several days, and then it began to creep in again. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat.
Then I got pregnant again and the morning sickness knocked me sideways. At that time we had no help at home, and Gary was working and travelling for work. I spent a lot of time sitting on the bathroom floor (if not being sick, desperately hoping not to be) and lying on the sofa waiting for the spinning to stop.
I don't think I can really explain the tiredness that comes with pregnancy. It's not your run of the mill tired. The not getting enough sleep, or did a tough workout tired. It's like there is a weight pressing on you and pushing you down. It takes all your strength to fight it, and you have no room for anything else. It's a lethargy, and uselessness.
I spent a lot of me pregnancies chiding myself for not getting off my fat bottom (and it was hugely fat by that time) and being more productive. I felt guilty every day because I didn't have the energy to do all the things with my daughter that I wanted to, that she deserved.
And then I came to a realisation. I don't really care. I didn't really care before I got pregnant if I was honest with myself. I tried to do the "right" thing and restrict TV, but I really wasn't that interested. Because if I had been, the TV wouldn't have crept back in.
My kids do not spend all day in front of the TV, but they do watch TV everyday. Probably too much TV everyday.
We live in an apartment that is 50 plus stories into the sky. My kids are not allowed on the balconies under any circumstances. So there is no easy outside space access. And there are things I have to do during the day which means the kids have to entertain themselves for brief periods of time. We have to function as a family. My toddler is into anything and everything, and the simplest way to get things done in the fastest time so that we can go and do something more productive, is to put the TV on.
Otherwise I would spend all day moving her away from things I don't want her to mess with, and then add onto that the time I need to spend looking after my six month old, and the other things would never get done.
I feel like we are in a good balance. We usually go out of the house both in the morning and the afternoon. We go to playdates, playgroups, soft play, the park, the beach, the pool, nursery, the shops. The kids are on the go all day everyday.
But that can't be possible all the time. My two year old no longer naps, but my six month old does need time in his cot to nap. My daughter also needs downtime now that she isn't napping, and getting her to sit still is an almost impossible task. She wants to be on the go all day every day, but she just can't do that without a nap or she is a wreck after a week or so.
So in the early mornings we are at home, same at lunchtime and same again in the early evening before bath time. When you get up at 5am, 9am or 10am seems a long time away.
The TV is not the only thing in the house. The kids have more toys than I know what to do with and I spend a large amount of time playing with Happyland Figures, threading beads onto shoe laces, doing jigsaws and chasing my daughter around our apartment. I read, on average, ten books a day, not including the bedtime story (in preparation for this post I counted over a two week period). That's in addition to leaving the house and doing other things.
I feel content that we provide enough activities and toys and stimulation for our kids, so if a bit too much TV is one of our faults, I'm comfortable with that.
Would I rather be outside, of course, but we live in the desert and in the summer it's 45 degrees with 91% humidity.
Do I restrict what they watch, of course. Do I fast forward the death scene in the Lion King, of course. Do we have sensory bins, paint, play doh, flash cards, jigsaws and various other "activities", of course.
Their lives (and my life) is full and complex and is often at breakneck speed in order to fit everything in. A little downtime with the TV is a small but often important part of our day. And I am not going to feel guilty about that anymore.
For those of you who have also succumbed to the TV, here are our current favourites:
A bizarre choice, but my daughter is obsessed with 62 West Wallaby Street. A Close Shave is the current favourite, she shouts "Baa" at the TV every time she sees Shaun the Sheep (which is a lot!). Probably not much educational value, but it's great fun watching her sense of humour develop as she gets older.
There are nowhere near enough episodes of Peppa Pig for me. My daughter is perfectly happy to watch the same ones over and over again, but I can now recite them all in my sleep. So a few new seasons added to iTunes would be greatly appreciated.
As much as I'm fed up of it, I actually really like this choice for our kids. The content is simple and appropriate and covers various subjects like what a compost heap is, what happens when you go on holiday, why you have a shadow.
I also really like that for birthdays and Christmas they only get on present each. No huge stashes of presents. I'm hoping it will help me to keep their expectations in check in the future.
One of my least favourites. It's really strange, not a lot really happens and I don't really get the value of it. Iggle Piggle is the current soft toy of choice in this house as a result, and I'm sick of hearing "yes my name is iggle piggle" over and over again.
But, it's a nice, quiet show, and not a lot happening can be really useful for winding down at the end of the day. Plus watching my daughter do the full Tombliboo dance during each episode is enough to have me in stitches.
Another show from the Peppa Pig fold. Avid Peppa Pig fans will recognise most of the voices, they have been repurposed for this show in great number.
Similar to Peppa Pig in content, so it's an easy choice to add to our collection.
No surprises that this makes the list, but it is surprising that this is not a favourite. My daughter likes it, but she doesn't often choose it. She likes the singing and Olaf more than anything.
I really like the way this Disney film deals with death. It is relatively subtle and so for a younger audience it is great, and I don't feel the need to fast forward it. I also think I like it more than my toddler does, and I'm not shy of coaxing her to choose it over some of the others!
Animals are always a winner in our house, and this is no exception. The elephants and the tiger are received to great applause, and lots of giggling when the snake gets dumped out of a tree. It's really nice from my perspective to see her enjoying films that I loved when I was little.
I didn't want nightmares keeping us all awake at night. So I settled for fast forwarding through the sections I don't like, and allowing the rest. It is hugely loved in our house and I'm just praying that the day when she asks why I'm skipping bits out doesn't come for a while.
This is my very new discovery, and I have to say, I'm absolutely loving it. The BBC has done itself a great service with this little gem. Again it's completely age appropriate and non scary. It very carefully deals with topics that are relevant to anyone who has a child who has hit the tantrum stage.
For example, in one episode Bing buys a present for his friend, but then decides he rather likes the present and wants to keep it. The episode works through his feelings and the most appropriate way to deal with them - with the help of a random creature called Flop.
It is really well done and I am adopting the phrase "there are two of you and only one of [insert object here], so what happens now", with the answer being "we take turns".
I'm also learning a lot from it myself, particularly the patient and calm way that Flop deals with the toddler tantrum issues and resolves the situation in a quiet way. I could definitely take some pointers from Flop on my parenting skills.
So what is the poison of choice in your household? How do you allocate TV time (or not) and do you feel guilty about it?