I am a bad Mummy. Sometimes I use the TV as a babysitter while I go and lock myself in a room, drink
(Hell’s bells I feel as if I’ve just reported myself for attempted murder to the mummy police.)
Now he is only allowed to watch one of two channels (CBeebies and Tiny Pop for those who are interested) and he cannot watch it at mealtimes, if we are reading, or indeed when we have company, but otherwise he may watch whatever he pleases, when he pleases and I swear there isn’t an ounce of guilt in my whole body about the matter.
Did I teach him what eyebrows are for? No. It was Nina and her Neurons. What about the Makaton he uses to communicate with the little boy in his class who cannot speak- was that me? Did I teach him it? No he picked it up all by himself from Justin on Something Special. The concept of adding and minusing I have struggled to explain to him for weeks? Sorted in a matter of minutes by a clever little program called Number Jacks. Finally understanding what recycling is (though he is a willing little divider and separator of all things green at home) thanks to Tommy Zoom and his mate Polluto and choosing an apple over a
Here’s the thing: Finley is an extremely intelligent, active child. His imagination knows no bounds and he can put into words any of the myriad of feelings he experiences daily. He doesn’t want to be slumped in front of the tv all day long. He wants to be running around fighting imaginary monsters and doing sixty piece jigsaws in the space of minutes that I struggle to do in an hour. He likes books. And trains. And coloring-in and writing his name a hundred times over. He likes flinging paint all over my gorgeous waxed table. He likes dancing and whacking a golf stick at a plastic golf ball. He loves snuggling up with me and talking about his friends. And his Nana. And the multitude of reasons why he won’t have his hair washed without screaming blue murder. And sometimes he wants to talk about something he has watched on Tv… why does it matter if Brother and Sister from the Berenstein Bears ask Grandma if she has bought them a present when she comes to visit? Whats rude about that? Why is Peppa Pig being so mean to George? Why is Charles so upset about being the smallest kid in Timothy (Goes To Schools) class? And then, when he’s got the moral’s of this or that story straight, he wants to go fill the sink with soapy water and teach his toy frog to swim.
Believe me, I know all the arguments against allowing our children free reign with the remote control. There was a thorough, two sided debate in Junior Magazine only this month. I’ve read the (frankly) terrifying, scaremongering reports frequently issued to the press and I’ve listened to rooms full of smug mummies spout their occasionally warped theories on child development for more hours than any woman with spirit flowing through her veins should have to endure and still, and still, and still I listen to my instincts, look at my child and know that here is an articulate, empathatic, energetic child uncompromised by the fact that he is ritualistically allowed to spend his snuggle time curled up in a ball watcing an old irish animated pig tell stories from his childhood in a way that encourages both a sense of comfort and indeed spark for three year old debate – mostly because the television he is permitted to see is carefully monitored, in line with curriculum educational standards for his age, imaginative and above all else gently moralistic, while teaching it’s audience how to make sense of the parts of their world their Mummies cannot control or because we are human beings and can’t be all things to all our little people, simply forget to teach in a way our kids can easily comprehend.
I see television as one more tool in my efforts to make Finley into a rounded little person. A child unafraid to express his opinion, indeed to have any opinion at all, a child exposed to so much more than I alone, am capable of offering him, and a child allowed a certain degree of leeway about how he spends his time (Which means the tv is certainly not on twelve hours a day in our house as Finley long ago understood the wonder of silence, of letting his voice be heard and his mind empty too) . A tool I use to supplement books, games, construcive (and occasionally downright demented) play, hugs and of course, essentially and above all else, conversation (The most insipid children I know are those whose parents treat them as children in the most traditional sense and never engage them in grown up conversation) and I truly believe that when we demonise something in the manner so many parents do television, we isolate our children from the rest of society- which does not mean I don’t absolutely advocate keeping the remote far away from grubby little hands, and making educated, balanced choices about what they are allowed to see.
And all of which goes no way at all to explaining why my favorite time of the day is milktime when Finley snuggles on my knee, just before bed and sleepily watches the first half of Emmerdale Farm.
Bad Mummy. Bad Mummy!