Veronica Grace doesn’t let her sons watch TV and they like it! No really, they do!
“No TV for YOU!” is what I used to say to my sons when we first stopped watching TV. They didn’t get the humor having never seen Seinfeld. Nor did they get the irony of using a TV line to tell them they couldn’t watch TV. But it made me laugh. Other times when they complained I would say in my best weird voice “I’m a mean mean mommy!” and then laugh evilly. I had always been worried about the amount of TV they watched, especially commercials. So pretty much they were only allowed to watch G rated movies, Sesame Street/PBS, and the Disney Channel’s lineup for small kids in the morning. As they began to outgrow those shows I struggled with trying to find a balance between not allowing them to watch commercial filled, gender stereotyping, violent, disrespectful, crap and also not making them outcasts at school for not knowing about the things the other kids knew about.
It was the feeling of discomfort over that constant tightrope walk that left me feeling uncomfortable and trying to cover it up with bad jokes and silliness.
When the housing crash and my husband’s layoff happened, we ended up losing his house and moving. This left us in the position of having to turn on all the utilities…while being pretty broke. I would love to tell you that we responsibly looked at our expenses and determined that we could not afford the $130 a month cable bill. But I can’t. Like most Americans it did not occur to us to not have cable. But as it turned out, the cable company had the worst customer service of any company I’ve ever dealt with. I tend to think having a bit of a monopoly leads to that but that’s a whole different subject. Eventually we got fed up and my husband and I decided that we would go without cable at least until he found work.
That was 4 years ago and it turns out we don’t miss it. We watched netflix for awhile at first and then eventually we realized we weren’t watching that anymore either. Somewhere along the way my discomfort with depriving my sons of current pop culture has mostly evaporated. We do watch Nova Science Now and other science shows, and we did go through the whole series of Star Trek: Next Generation once they got to tween/teen ages. There are carefully chosen movies for special occasions, but for the most part TV and especially current mainstream TV are just not a focus of our lives.
The really interesting thing is that I think my sons actually like it this way now. There is an occasional show they wish they could watch (Ninjago was the last one), but for the most part my younger son seems happy to have more time to read and my older son holds a sense of pride in his not-like-everyone-elseness. A few days ago my older son was going on about something the kids at school were talking about and how he couldn’t understand why they would spend time watching that when they could be doing something REALLY important! Like building LEGOs. So I asked my sons what the good things were about not watching TV. Here is the list they gave me.
“We don’t even know those famous people!” This in reference to being glad he didn’t know who Robin Thicke was and I have to admit it was very nice to not have to worry about trying to explain that bit of surreal spectacle.
Less Violent, my older son offered this one along with his concern for things the other kids were doing to each other and the bullying problem at his school.
Both sons agreed that the kids they knew never saved their money up because they were always buying the newest stuff. My younger son has somehow managed to save around $300 and he shows no signs of stopping. Unless of course he comes up with a plan for that room cleaning robot he’s trying to design. Or a time machine so he can stop time and read for as long as he wants. Or a transporter.
If you’ve read much of what I write you may have noticed certain obsessions my sons have. My younger son of course offered that when there was less TV there was More reading!
My older son threw in “and More Thinking!”
They both agreed that they felt More creative when they didn’t watch TV.
I was shocked to hear my older son say that he thought it was good not to watch TV Because then You eat less sugar “because you’re not watching all those commercials for soda and stuff.” If I was a betting woman I would have bet he thought less sugar was the biggest downside to being part of our family.
My older son finished out the list by saying he was glad he didn’t feel pressure from TV to waste his money on the latest fashions and that he was happy to not have to talk to anyone about Miley Cyrus.
Now, I’m clearly not your mom and I have no desire to tell you what to do for yourself or your children if you have them. That’s not why I wrote this. I wrote this because when I was feeling uncomfortable on that tightrope I wish I had know that someone out there had struggled with the same thing and that it had worked out well for them.
I also like the idea of throwing ideas out there for people to consider. It doesn’t mean that anyone has to do things the way I do. But maybe another parent is feeling similarly about a different subject. I can’t guarantee that everyone’s kids will be happy eventually if they take their TV away, or stop letting them eat fast food, or play video games 29 hours a day, or whatever. But I can tell you that I’ve always been glad when I really took time to consider my gut feelings and concerns.
There have been times when on further examination I was being unnecessarily fearful, but I’ve never regretted really taking the time to think about how I want to raise my sons and taking action when appropriate. My only regrets have been the times I ignored the voice in my head that said “I don’t think this is good for my child.” or let my discomfort with doing something differently than other parents freeze me into inaction.