It started by accident. I needed to make dinner and I had a day full of meetings and I just wanted some quiet time chopping onions so I turned on the tv. Fast forward a few months and I had created two TV worshipping monsters. A couple weeks ago when my two year old came up to me with tears in his eyes whimpering the word shoooooow on a loop I knew we had a problem. I did what seemed like the reasonable thing to do: moderation. We would have LESS shows. Instead of two shows a day it would be just one. And that is when I learned my first lesson:
LESSON 1 — Children do not understand moderation.
(at least mine and maybe yours too)
Children are like puppies in so many ways and this is one of them. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have a beautiful golden retriever puppy named Annie.
If Annie were to figure out how to open the dog food container with 32lbs of the finest kibble known to dog-kind she’s going to eat it until she literally gets sick.
Kids: Just like puppies! Kids will watch TV until they literally get sick. The problem is that when kids get TV-sick it looks like this: They emulate the characters on the show, they whine for more, they have entire conversations about the characters from a show like they are best friends, they hum the soundtrack and my personal least favorite: they start to perform their own laugh-track of exaggerated bwah-ahha-hhhas.
As my delightful eight year old was performing said laugh-track at dinner after a few days of my “moderation” experiment I could see the writing on the walls: This was not working.
The next day when the two-year-old threw himself into one of his first ever tantrums because I had selected the wrong episode of Bob the Builder while I was being asked for the billionth time if she could watch some Disney show where the parents are portrayed as complete morons even though I’ve said no ALL the times asked before (which was billions of times), I became undone. If I physically could have picked up the tv and put it in the trash I would have.
I did what mothers do when they are pregnant and can’t make a vodka based cocktail: I went to Facebook for help:
And what I heard from so many people is that the struggle is not just mine and that through their collective experience I was to learn lesson #2:
LESSON 2 — Kids only understand FIRM boundaries.
Friday morning was met with some big tears when my husband and I let the kids know that there would be no more tv. Period. Complete stop.
Could we have made another pass at moderation? Probably and who knows maybe we’ll land there someday but for now I knew that one show would turn into begging for a second which would turn into whining for a third and it had to stop.
LESSON 3 — This will feel like a punishment to you too.
Setting firm boundaries and sticking to them = NOT EASY. But by setting the firm boundary the rules are clear and the price of walking it all back is very very steep. Never again will you be able to declare No More TV and have the children believe and respect you. So you stick to it.
LESSON 4 — It will be so much easier than you thought.
We had two breakdowns the first day, it was challenging and I called in backup with our world class babysitter who is so awesome at playing that I knew she’d encourage the best behavior and give me the exhales that I needed from being so undone by the TV.
We had one breakdown the second day and then we put on bathing suits for swim lessons and the day rolled on from there.
The third day we just reminded all parties that this was the new reality and we got on with life. At one point George (my husband and legit the most amazing man on the planet) and I looked at each other and said “did we really get through this whole weekend?”
I was fearful of subtracting TV. I resisted it. I believed that I needed the break too, that the kids having that downtime was “helping” me. But in this experiment I’ve learned something greater.
LESSON 5 — I don’t need a break from my kids noise. I need a break from the outside noise.
While the kids were watching TV I was on Facebook and Instagram, sprinkle in a dash of People.com and NPR and I was one with the world….completely removed from MY life for those 24 minutes and despite my feelings otherwise at the time: I wasn’t better for it.
This weekend with no TV is about to become a week with no TV and I’m loving the results: catching them dancing, picking out books and reading them, playing imaginary games, pounding the piano, playing play-doh, building new train tracks on the train table, “fixing” things with tool sets and running around laughing and squealing.
Am I getting it all right? hahahahhaha No. But if you’ve had the moment where you literally can not be asked for one more show without losing your mind then maybe you’ll have the same experience I have had. I’ll keep you posted how the week goes!
Originally published at medium.com