Bad Mummy, No.364.

By alison August 30, 2007 17 Comments 5 Min Read

Tvkids

I am a bad Mummy. Sometimes I use the TV as a babysitter while I go and lock myself in a room, drink cocktails  and bang my head against a  flock covered brick wall.  Only joking. Except of course I’m not. Prepare yourself to keel over in disgust, but Finley is  allowed to watch  as  much TV as he chooses.
(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 bag of sweets because apples are "sports candy" and keep us healthy according to the heroic tales of the lovely Sportacus from ( the admittedly quite scary in a surreal kind of fashion)  Lazytown.

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!

Further debate…

Is Television Destroying Our Children Minds?

Is Tv Really So Bad For Our Kids?


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17 Comments

  1. Gayla says:

    Don't beat yourself up about this one. Good and bad in both sides, It think. Gerred watched all he wanted, I think. (See, I didn't even know? haha..) and he's truly compassionate, a great soul. I love little Finley with all my heart, and I'm sure he'll be fine with a mommy like you. Go! tunes~

  2. Jeanne says:

    Sometimes I think parents who get all obsessive about regulating TV time do it because they themselves have a problem turning it off. I find kids perfectly capable of finding something else to do when it occurs to them. It's adults who keep watching anything just for the sake of watching. One of my boys was a pretty heavy watcher, the other wasn't. Now they're both ambivalent about what's on. (And frankly, I think a lot of these "scolding parents" are in denial about how much TV their kid is really watching…but you didn't hear that from me…)

  3. It depends on the child. Since Finley is a great kid, he is active and curious and is not likely to depend on television for fun. I would worry if watching TV is all he enjoyed doing – some children watch too much TV indeed and develop health problems. I watched a lot of TV as a kid but certainly was not dependant on it for fun, I enjoyed being active as well. I barely watch TV as an adult. I'm sure Finley will be fine! You're a great mother.

  4. Kat says:

    Halleluyah !!!!!!A real mummy….just like me…….I relly loved that post…..glad to have found you.
    Kat x

  5. Danielle says:

    Aha. Another mummy who knows every show on CBEEBIES! As a mum of three preschoolers I really appreciate the value of educational, non-violent, entertaining telly for kids! Sometimes it can be a life saver. And we all know (even if we don't admit it), it's not about the TV, or the games console, or anything else. It's about the characters and values of the parent/s and the personalities of the children. You could have the most well-meaning parents in the world and they could still end up with a little psycho for a child and vice versa! Thanks for your usual honesty Alison.
    (by the way I have a boudoir chair just like the one on the right but in lavender and gold, it's very brocante home!)

  6. MOTM says:

    LOVE the post… more mothers need to be as honest. There's far too much competition in motherhood. Always a relief to meet/read realistic ones! Cheers! =)

  7. Lisa says:

    Oh, Allison, just when I think I couldn't love you more, you write something that makes me fall in love all over again. *sigh*

  8. Excellent post! I have a five year old very similar. He has watched more television than I originally intended, but he drinks up knowledge. He loves books, playing outside, and converstation.
    I say you know your own child. You obviously are providing him with a wonderful, well-rounded childhood. You are observing his development. You are treating him like an individual. Good for you!

  9. Oh Please. A moment of reality and Non-Politically Correct humanity. Two Words.
    Moderation.
    Accountability.
    The child who is never allowed contact with the media has no idea how to tell the difference between real and hollywood.
    The child who does not have contact with live friends and the outdoors can not tell the difference between real and two dimensional.
    Some mother's are fixated on 24/7 quality time of popsicle stick people and macaronii math. Some are obsessed with their own lives and selves that the TV becomes the only adult conversations that the children of the house hear. Please. Moderation.
    My Children will learn how to build and develope a well rounded rich life through example. Through learning to budget their own life choices between television and social activity NOT because I put a security lock on the remote control, but because WE mothers demonstrate those choices ourselves.
    The rest of their lives are not going to consist of employers and educators dedicating their entire day to facilitating learning opportunities for our children. They will have opportunities made available.. but they must learn to seize them.
    TV is here to stay. Society can fight it all it wants and judge us mother's to make it'self feel better. But Please…
    Reality is.. Our kids are JUST FINE. And if they aren't? I doubt that Mr Roger's Neighbourhood made them Mass Murders! ( ROlls eyes)
    Thanks for you candor!

  10. Marie says:

    We have a saying in the U.S. – "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

  11. Mary says:

    Funny enough, in my family of 9 children that I grew up in the smartest person in the family, my dear sister, watch THE MOST tv of all of us. I think hse is so smart that she needed the stimulation.

  12. Mary says:

    Funny enough, in my family of 9 children that I grew up in the smartest person in the family, my dear sister, watch THE MOST tv of all of us. I think hse is so smart that she needed the stimulation.

  13. Joan says:

    Hey I credit watching hours of Sesame Street to being able to read early. My husband who was born and raised in Hong Kong speaks nearly perfect English because of endless hours watching Sesame Street too. There's a big difference between him and his siblings. His youngest sister still sounds F.O.B. (Fresh off the boat).
    Since summer is almost over, I let my 5 year old watch the educational channels as long as he wants since I'm constantly chasing after a one year old and getting ready for our big trip abroad. I don't feel one ounce of guilt as it keeps him occupied until I have time to play with him or take both kids to the park.

  14. Susana says:

    We got rid of our t.v. this past spring. It's been nice because we read more, or just spend more time doing things together. We do however watch stuff on the laptop still, (rent movies, watch episodes of some of our fave shows, etc..) and we also let our 4 boys watch dvd's on there a few times a week. I do also love educational programs and do believe that kids can learn a lot from them as well. I just kind of prefer them to play outside or in their little "classroom" we made for them. I grew up on too much t.v. and feel that I missed out on a lot of things I could have been actively doing. This is one of the main reasons why I really limit them. Finley does seem like a smart boy, and as long as he's doing fine, then I'm sure he'll be a happy and healthy boy!
    -Susana

  15. Frabo! Frabo! while frantically trying to stand up and cheer. (Frabo is my son's version of Bravo.)
    Cheers! LA

  16. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for your honesty! With only a few days left before school begins, I have given-up on monitoring tv time, and I can finally have some relaxation… 😉 There is a happy medium, and it sounds like you have achieved it. Finley may be allowed to watch as much as he wants, but obviously he is learning to make choices and does a good job!

  17. About 15 years ago a friend told me that she thought my son talked better than her child because I never did "baby talk" to him. Well, I've since wrecked him (and the 3 that followed him), I'm sure, by some other poor mothering method but, at the very least, they all have excellent speaking capabilities. =) Blessings… Polly

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