Tossing the TV doesn’t turn kiddies into grouches
We have no TV. We’re not weird. We’re not above TV. We’re just victims of appliance violence.
The guy who helped install the screen just a few weeks ago was called back. He couldn’t confirm whether the damage was from a projectile or a head butt.
All he could confirm was that I could use the warranty to wipe away my children’s tears. And with that our life post-television (PTV) began.
Days 1 and 2 were filled with shock and bemusement: it was so young, it was so beautiful, I can’t believe it’s dead, etcetera. There was also a degree of fear – someone was going to have to pay for this.
By Day 3 there were so many people going cold turkey under one roof it seemed there must be some kind of government funding available.
I wanted a new TV, and I wanted it fast. Parenting without one was like running a hospital without drugs. But in the circumstances how could I just replace it? How could I reward wanton destruction?
On Day 4, there was a prime suspect but a lack of evidence. However, the new world order had set in. The suspect’s 4-year-old sister approached me, and with complete sincerity pronounced that, “without TV there is nothing to do.”
All those books, all those organic, carbon-neutral, handcrafted, IQ-boosting, outrageously expensive German toys - had they really been for nought? Her pronouncement cut deep.
On Day 5, the same child woke and told me, for the first time, that she had had a dream: “I dreamed the TV worked again.”
Over the subsequent days symptoms typical of any withdrawal were rife: tension, grumpiness, aggression and nail biting. The degree of small screen dependence that I had allowed to develop had become tragically clear.
But by Day 10 a strange thing had happened. There was evidence of increased physical activity, more creative pursuits and less tardiness. I’m not going to dwell on this point, suffice to say that there were clear positive consequences – pretty much all the ones parents are boxed around the ears with by experts.
I doubt we would have had the resolve to deny, or probably even reduce, children’s screen time, but this was as if we had been the subject of an intervention - like being bundled up and dropped at the door of a fat farm. We had been constrained into wholesomeness. And we were benefitting from it.
Violet crumbles, margaritas, nudity – life abounds in wonderful things that are ok as long as you can keep it under control, but watching my household go cold turkey showed me that I was not keeping TV under control.
TV had become for me like an utterly sedentary babysitter with no initiative - I knew I could find better - but I kept giving her work anyway. A lot of work, because she was totally reliable, dirt cheap, the kids loved her and she could start at 6 am.
Worse still, I had sensed a certain smugness from the older generation – we kept it in check – we didn’t let our kids’ eyes go square.
But my recollection is that in the 70s, unless you were the kind of 5 year-old that liked watching Pot Black, there came a time when you just had to get off the couch. Today ABC Kids burbles along like an inviting brook from dawn to dusk.
Faced with a proven history of dependence and the demonstrated benefits of withdrawal, I had to confront the question - should we try to continue TV free?
The problem with this is that not only do I have no gripe with TV per se, I am actually a big fan of ABC Kids.
It’s like muesli for their biologically small minds – packed with intellectual nutrition. It’s also more politically correct than a lesbian student union liason officer.
There is no problem with the product. The problem is with the user. With me.
Reflection is a pre-cursor to learning. As I write, it is Day 21 PTV, and the time for reflection is nigh.
In so doing, I realise I have learnt at least two key lessons: first, we have the strength to keep clean, at least until the next round of sales. Second, there’s no way I’m forking out for the top of the line model next time round.
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