Monday, October 22, 2012

on tv

Good morning!  How was your weekend?  Tommy tested for his gold belt in karate on Saturday morning (he passed!), and then we went to our local Halloween parade.  Tommy picked up a lot of candy and both kids loved watching the bands, the tractors, and best of all, the Shriners zooming around in their little cars.  I want one of those.  For real.  Yesterday was youth Sunday at our church, and Will and the kids did an awesome job! The weather was pretty perfect here, so after church we spent the afternoon outside playing with the kids down the street.  I love having great neighbors!

In my spare time over the last week, I've been reading a book called "Living Simply with Children" by Marie Sherlock. From the back cover:  "What if you could find a way to spend more time with your children, replace unnecessary activities with meaningful ones, and teach your children an invaluable life lesson in the process?  Living Simply with Children offers a realistic blueprint for zeroing in on the pleasures of family life...this inspiring guide will show you how to raise children according to your own values - and not those of the consumer culture - as you enjoy both quality and quantity time with your family."   A lofty promise, no?  I've enjoyed it so far (even if I don't necessarily agree with all of it) but one chapter I've found very interesting and timely (I've been thinking a lot about this lately, even before reading this book) is one that asks the question, "TV or Not TV?"  

While I totally agree with many of her arguments against watching TV and for getting rid of it altogether, I definitely don't see us trashing ours anytime soon, and probably not ever (at least while Modern Family is still running....and any type of sports).  But I'm totally for the idea of watching less.  

One of Sherlock's big arguments against television is the crazy amount of advertising (especially towards our children!) that plays during a 30-minute show.  I completely agree that all of those commercials create an incredible case of the "gimme's" in my five-year-old son (and sometimes me, too!).  He wants every new toy he sees advertised, thinks we should buy this awesome car or that, and needs to eat every sugary snack that's ever been created.  I don't want him to think that happiness comes from buying more and more stuff and that he's only cool if he's wearing such-and-such a shirt or these awesome shoes or bringing those yummy snacks in his lunch.  I know I can talk to him about these things and I do, but wouldn't it make it a lot easier if he wasn't being flooded with all those ads every day? 

At our house, we have two televisions - a 42-inch in our living room and a much smaller one in our bedroom.  The only time we turn on the one in the bedroom is if I want to watch a movie while Will watches something else or if Will wants to check a sports score before he goes to sleep.  Both of these are rare occurrences.  The one in the living room is a different story though.  Here's how it breaks down:

Me:  While I used to watch a whole lot more, these days I find myself avoiding the TV pretty much all day.  I do watch every new episode of Modern Family and Parenthood, but those are the only shows I don't miss.  Occasionally I watch a cooking show or a talk show, but in general, when my boys are at school and work, I don't turn on the TV, and when Tommy comes home, I don't really have time to watch.  I do not play video games.

Will:  My husband is a big sports fan and will watch any game/match/highlight that happens to be on, regardless of whether or not he supports the teams or players that are playing (this fact baffled me at the beginning of our marriage, but I have since met other women with sports-loving husbands who do the same thing, so it doesn't seem as weird anymore).  He also has a Play Station 3 and a Wii.  While I would say that the Wii is a family game system (that we hardly ever use), the PS3 is really his and he uses it fairly often (only at night after the kids are in bed and when I'm catching up on my reading or knitting).

Tommy:  Tommy is allowed to watch four TV channels - Nickelodeon (assuming there's an appropriate kids shows playing when he wants to watch), Nick Jr., Disney (same as Nick), and PBS.  I wouldn't say he watches a ton of TV, but he definitely spends time every day watching some show or other.  He's also been given two little hand-held game systems (hand-me-down) that we actually just gave to Goodwill because he wasn't using them.  He and Will play Batman Lego's on the PS3 every once in awhile, but he very rarely plays on the computer and only occasionally plays games on my iPhone (mostly when we're in the car).

Annabel:  No.  We didn't let Tommy watch TV until he was 2 and she follows the same rule.

What normally happens in the morning is I'm up with the baby getting her breakfast, and before he leaves for work in the morning, Will checks Sports Center to see the scores of games that ended after he went to bed.  He leaves it on when he goes to work.  Tommy then comes down and turns it to his channel and watches until it's time for his breakfast.  He also watches a show after school while I fix dinner.  Instead of always telling him to turn it off, over the past couple days, I've been doing a little experiment with Tommy.  After Will leaves, I turn the TV off and put the remote in a drawer.  I've found that if Tommy doesn't see it (the TV on or the remote) when he comes down, he doesn't even think about watching it.  He curls up under a blanket on the couch for a little while until he really wakes up, he asks for and eats breakfast, and then he plays with toys in our newly cleaned-out playroom (I just went through with him and took several bags of toys to Goodwill) or in his room until it's time to get dressed and ready for school.  After school we've been going outside and then he plays in the playroom until dinner's ready. This past weekend, he hardly watched any TV at all. 

In light of all of this, when the four of us were in the car together the other day, I told the boys that I thought we should have a TV-free day each week.  While there was some protest (Will asked if we would be leaving it off even after the kids were in bed, to which I answered, "Um, yeah") we ultimately agreed that Tuesday would be our new TV-free day.  And I'm actually going to upgrade that to a technology-free day.  No games, no phones (besides making necessary calls or listening to music), no computers, no TV.  Instead, we'll play board games, read books, listen to music, play outside, build block towers, etc, etc, etc.  Heck, maybe we'll get really crazy and go bowling!   

So I'm curious:  What do you think about TV?  Do you watch a lot or not much?  If you have kids, do they watch TV?  Would you ever consider a TV-free day or evening?  Or would you totally get rid of your TV?!  There's so much more that could be said about this.  I'm really interested to know how other families with young children handle TV watching.  I'd love to hear what you're doing at your house!  

Happy Monday!


  1. We had satellite TV for awhile but last summer, we canceled it and opted to use Netflix streaming instead. It's been great! We're saving money and we aren't bombarded with commercials when we do watch TV. Netflix offers A LOT of choices for children's programming and we do limit what and how much Genevieve watches. She typically watches one show after she wakes up for the day and one show before bed with the occasional show after nap time when she needs more time to wake up. She often watches shows on my iPad which means Annalise watches very little TV. My husband is also a sports nut (when it comes to football and hockey at least) so he does miss being able to watch more college football, etc but he is surviving! I doubt we'll return to paying for satellite TV again only because it's so ridiculously expensive! Especially for what you get. We probably watched 10 or fewer channels on a regular basis but we were paying for over 200. We also keep up with shows like The Office, Parenthood and Fringe by watching the latest episodes online on our laptop or the iPad. We do this after the kids go to bed.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I'm impressed that Brian was cool with getting rid of the sports shows...Will's so not on board with that. We have cable that includes a ton of channels, but like you, we only watch about 8-10 of them, and it is expensive. I like the idea of Netflix streaming...I'd just have to figure out how to get all the sports! Good things to think about. Hope you guys are doing well!