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To TV...or Not to TV. That is the Question.

Cartoon of monster TV and daughter

When Little E was born, we had the best of intentions. “Down with TV” was our mantra; “no remote can control us” was our motto. We would throw off the chains of the Internet age and retreat to the simpler, richer world of the Luddite. We would stoke our child’s creativity with craft projects and dance to records and, I dunno…maybe become vegans.

But, as always, life has a way of biting the overly pious parent on the backside.

Reality sets in. You learn what it truly means to be tired. Distracted. Overwhelmed by job and family and the daily tectonic shifts of your world. You need a break, if only for the length of a 30-minute sing-a-long. So we turned on, tuned in, and occasionally dropped out.

And then, as so often happens, we took a very fast ride on a slippery slope.

What began as some light bedtime tube-gazing turned into part of our nighttime routine. Sprout had to be viewed or nobody would be sleeping through the night. As Little E got older, we started instituting “quiet time” in the afternoons, an hour of TV (okay, fine, sometimes two hours) that served as a cooling off period for all parties during a long and sometimes contentious day.

Then last Christmas, we got a Kindle. Once again, we had the best of intentions. We paid for the ABC Mouse application and vowed to use the device only for education and a brief reprieve from kid-speak when we went out for dinner. Soon enough, though, we loaded up Netflix and put a million hours of video at her tiny little fingertips. Doc McStuffins, Daniel Tiger, weird Scandinavian sing-a-longs. That little screen became her most prized possession. Oh, did I say possession? I meant addiction. She would strangle a kitten to get to it and chew your face off if you tried to pry her away.

And it’s not her fault.

I’m sure there are people out there who can throw a single building block into the middle of the living room and entertain their kid for hours. I am not one of those parents. Don’t get me wrong: We play. Hard and often. I love watching her create worlds with her toys and come up with stories and fanciful flights of make-believe, but sometimes she wants to just zone out and ignore the large man telling her “no” all the time. On my end, sometimes the dishes need to be done. Sometimes a blog post needs to be written. Sometimes I just need a break.

I wish I could say that there was an answer, but once Pandora’s box is opened, there’s no going back. My wife and I run our own business and work from home, and some days demand a lot of our attention. On those days, the TV or Kindle can be a savior. We have, though, learned to treat it a bit like Tolkien’s “one ring.” It doesn’t always have to hold dominion over us. It can be withheld, postponed, dangled, or threatened to be destroyed in a large tire fire. Ya know, I’m sure we’re not doing everything by the book…but we’re also somehow getting through it day by day.

I believe it was the great philosopher Homer J. Simpson who once toasted alcohol as the “cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” As a parent, I think I can raise that same glass of stilted respect to the television screen. I may not always like you, Mr. Boob Tube, but some days I really, really need you.

Just don’t tell Little E.

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