Today I think I was rude to the Amazing Mother of Four Under Four, when she kindly offered to pour Badger some Kool-Aid and I sort of froze. The truth is, not giving Badger juice is one of the few “I swear MY kid will never” things I had before I was a mom that I’ve managed to follow through on. I don’t even really have a problem with juice — honestly, the only reason she doesn’t have it is that we don’t keep it in the house. But even a sham victory over a paper tiger is a victory, right? I hope AM4U4 wasn’t offended, and I also hope she doesn’t think that I view her as some kind of a freak show, because I actually think she’s a really cool person beyond the fact that she is a superhero, and I’m bummed they’re leaving in a few weeks.
I bring it up because after I left the playground behind and I was mulling over my rudeness, I was also thinking about how we all have our I Would NEVER things that we give up on and never look back, because they’re clearly not important to us when faced with the reality of having a child. And then there are the I Would NEVERs that still hunker in the back of our minds, morphing into At Least It Isn’ts and I Should Try To Cut Backs and Maybe We Should Move To A Desert Island So This Isn’t a Problems.
What I’m getting at is: My daughter watches TV.
And I don’t mean it in that faux-confessional, “aren’t I a terrible mother, I let her watch 10 minutes of Masterpiece Theater once a week” way. She watches a LOT of TV. Most mornings the first thing she does when we get to the living room is wander over to it and say “teevee?” hopefully. Sometimes I try and hold the line, but most days I need coffee and a moment to myself, and so it begins. Some days it’s only an hour or so, and I really make an effort to shut it off when she’s not watching. But there are other days when the TV is on basically all day, background noise to reading books and throwing blocks, filling the soundtrack of our lives with Ni Hao and Wow Wow and This.Is.Serious.
There are times when it really does feel like the heaviest brick in the wall of my unfitness to be a mother — seriously, we’ve all seen the research (or at least skimmed a blurb about it in Parade Magazine or read about it on a blog). EVERYBODY knows TV is bad for kids, right? But most of the time I decide to feel okay about it. We all do what we do to get through, and I need a certain amount of time to not be crawled on and begged for pickles and olives or another round of the Wonder Pets theme song. I’m just not convinced TV is going to turn her into a drooling moron, or even make her only fit to be a dermatologist when she could have been a heart surgeon. It’s certainly expanded her song repertoire and vocabulary, if you consider words like “Brobee” and “Bubble Gubbies” to be useful additions. And I’m reasonably certain she’s picked up actual valuable knowledge, such as shapes and counting and beat-boxing. I mean seriously — my 18-month-old can count to 15 and she knows who Biz Markie is. That’s like a friggin’ ad for how awesome Nick Jr. is right there.
Yes, I know that it would be BETTER if she never watched TV at all. It would be better if we spent her 12 hours a day awake (that’s 7 days a week, folks) walking in nature and playing with sustainably-harvested wooden learning toys and singing Woody Guthrie songs and reading books about diversity. But I could do that for about two days before I snapped like a dry twig and curled into a ball under the bed. Perhaps I’m just not cut out to mother a toddler (although you just wait until we get to arts and crafts and chapter books age; I am going to CLEAN UP), but I’m the one she’s got and in my heart I know I’m doing fine — all you have to do is watch her tear around, getting her fingers stuck in little holes and climbing on all the furniture, singing a mash-up of all the songs from The Fresh Beat Band and telling me “I tried it — I like it!” and being generally endless and awesome and perfect.
But we sure as heck don’t watch that Dora. Even I have to draw the line somewhere.