There has been a lot written about TV. As a culture, we are completely addicted to it. I didn’t watch a lot of it when I was a kid. We had a VCR, but the TV was not connected to broadcast television. As a young adult, I watched it on and off when I had time. But when I had my first child, it became very important in my life.
Even though I heard that if you allowed your baby to watch TV before the age of 2, you would risk developmental delays, I didn’t turn it off. I have always been a person to research things and check facts for myself, but at that time of my life, I never checked this one. I guess I didn’t want to know. Having the television on in my home was a way of life for me when I was a new mother. I had worked for many years of my life before I had Joshua and frankly, I was bored at home. I was now a stay at home mother and for the first time in my life, I had no interaction or brain stimulation during the day. On top of that, I sat for hours in my chair feeding my baby with nothing else to occupy my mind. Now I’m being told to turn off the TV, or I could risk hurting his brain. Wow! They just don’t give mothers a break! Back then social media was just on the verge of getting big, so TV was the only means of input into my daily life. Other than grocery shopping and a playgroup here and there, I was by myself most of the time, and the TV kept me company. But if I was honest with myself, I felt guilty about it, that I should have been giving my son 100% of my attention.
As Joshua got older, I could see that he was becoming addicted to it too. At two years old, turning it on was the first thing he did in the morning and he would immediately sit down to watch “Sesame Street.” He knew the entire morning’s lineup of PBS shows and which were his favorites. I can still sing most of the songs. I tried turning it off and seeing how long I could leave it off before Joshua or I would turn it on. It wasn’t very long, half an hour at most. At that same time, a friend gave me a DVD of the “Little People” that she had as an extra. I will never forget when she told me that it was only 20 minutes, just long enough to make dinner, but not let the kids watch too much. I remember thinking that she must have it together so much more than me that she is able to limit her kids’ TV time. Maybe I really did have my TV on more that other mothers, but I never asked anyone. I still don’t know the answer to that because I don’t think it is something we like to talk about. We feel like we are failing as mothers when we resort to the television to entertain our kids.
At that point, I told my husband that we had a problem. He had never been much of a TV watcher after we were married. He was a news junky and was getting most of that online. I told him that I felt the only way to help my addiction and keep our son from getting trapped in it, was to get rid of the TV. Yikes! How would I keep my toddler occupied!! What if I regretted it! The only thing I knew is that I was sick of it and I was sick of seeing my son sit in front of it. I wanted to see him play and use his imagination!
My husband agreed and I still remember the day he hauled it out to the dumpster. It felt so freeing for me! I rearranged my living room and all of sudden there was so much more space. The quiet was nice. I saw Joshua playing more. The TV’s absence didn’t really bother him that much. He wasn’t really talking at the time, but I could tell he wondered where it had gone. And for a week, we watched nothing. I felt so peaceful. At the end of that week, my husband put a DVD in the laptop. My little two year old was astounded that he could watch something on the computer! This was when we entered the era of netflix, youtube, hulu and all the rest. There were many times when we used the laptop WAY to much, but I felt that I could control it far easier than I could the television. I could choose what he could watch and I had to deliberately start something new after a show had ended. I was far more successful in controlling it than I ever was with the TV.
That was six years ago and looking back now, I see that it was one of the things that started me on the journey to crave a simpler life. It really did change my life and the life of my family. Without the constant distraction that TV provided, I was able to think more, read more, and evaluate what was really important to me. I began to look at things differently and see all the “extras” in my life that I didn’t want or need. I began getting rid of a lot of other things in the effort to declutter our lives. In 2012, my family moved to the Ozarks to start a new life, living off grid (no electricity or running water) and trying our best to learn to live simply and be self-sufficient. Six years after my first son was born, I sat in the complete quiet and nursed my second son. I was usually alone with my thoughts and that was okay. Kaleb did not experience TV at all when he was a baby. Just recently we have decided to have family movie night. Once a week, we sit down to watch a movie together. We are now able to power laptops through our solar panels. Kaleb can’t sit still to watch! There are so much more interesting and fun things to do! What kid doesn’t want to watch Toy Story? One that has been raised without the fake and unimaginative flat screen. He gets to run around the farm and chase guinea hens for real. A flat screen can never compete with that. My life has changed so much.