Kinda rare that I'm ever hardcore, gung-ho about any of the controversial child-raising subjects. I was dead set on breastfeeding, but beyond that, I'm flexible and open to whatever works for us.
Warnings that TV is bad for children are shot at mothers from every direction. I considered this one good ole' common sense. No TV. Got it.
Then I met my newborn. He cried day and night. On and on. He paused to nurse; then picked up the shrieks where he left off. He paused to nap, woke up, realized there was silence and remembered that was because he was supposed to be crying.
Matt and I didn't go in public for months. We were both on edge and at each other's throats. There was no cleaning. No picking up strewn mess. No cooking. Only frustrated attempts to calm the crying.
Carter hit 9 months and suddenly, the television came into focus and offered him a still, silent comfort. Did I let him watch it?
You bet your buttpaste I did.
I reveled in the miraculous workings of the TV, small DVD players and a programmed DVR flashing the chaos that comprises Yo Gabba Gabba and the soothing voice of Steve plodding around looking for Blue's Clues. The older he's gotten, the more permanent residents Brobi, Muno & their friends have become in our house. If you want to send them Christmas cards, you'll need our address.
A happy Carter was all I'd ever wanted. And what? That happiness comes engraved in a silver lining of sanity? Yes, please.
Nine months of crying behind us; life resumed a sort of order. Order? What's that? I didn't even know what to do with myself. I blogged frequently. Tweeted even more. I cleaned. Did laundry. Sat with him and watched, restarting the same show 10 times in a row; occasionally refilling his milk cup and container of Cheerios.
I consider myself sensible and down to earth. I thought moms who annexed TV completely were extreme. I was living for so long just praying for calmness, and I hadn't really considered the whys of TV deficiency. Possibly naive? Yeah. But I'd been a little too consumed with a colicky baby to do internet research.
For the past two or so months, Carter's gotten unhealthily obsessed with his two favorite shows. As soon as he wakes up - and I mean before we can get through a morning diaper change - he asks to watch gabbagabbagabba-gaaaah and has a tantrum if the remote's not in my hand within twenty seconds.
I don't know when it exactly happened, but we'd come to the point where staying home to raise a baby had mutated into just trying to make it through the day.
He never, ever played with a single toy. Didn't open a book. Didn't want to eat. Unless his show was on, his personality was overall angry, violent and uncooperative. And forget talking to him, I couldn't even capture his attention. There was no way he was learning language. I'd been shrugging this off as his personality; he was born a challenge, so it just made sense that he'd be a difficult toddler, too. But hey, he seemed content, which was the closest we'd ever gotten to normalcy. The shows were singing him songs and telling him to be nice to others; there couldn't be anything wrong with what he was watching.
Until one day it clicked - this nice, much-needed break is making my son fall behind. Way behind.
I started reading articles, and found one that hit me. Hard. A few summary points?
♥ Babies/toddlers who watch a lot of TV during their early years are at risk for:
*poor social development
*decreased enthusiasm for learning
*becoming passive & losing natural creativity
*difficulty keeping themselves busy
♥ Babies have a very literal view of the world and interpret what they see on TV as true life. Research finds that young children believe TV characters actually live inside the TV set, which can later confuse understanding of the world and make it appear more frightening and unstable.
♥ Babies under the age of 2 see TV as a confusing array of colors and noises without understanding much content. Their brains aren't quick enough to translate each 5 to 8 second scene.
♥ Children have unparalleled physical, mental & emotional growth during their first years of life. Time used to watch TV is time taken away from healthful activities that nurture growth and development.
Last week I conceded to completely rob Carter of his TV lifestyle - cold turkey. He woke up, requested his morning matinee, and I told him no. He persisted with little pleases which evolved into tear-filled sobs. I offered him a ball that I doubt he even knew he had.
We expanded the playtime throughout the entire morning and into the afternoon. He'd pause intermittently to suggest his TV; I'd gently tell him no and propose a new toy. He was being nice to me. He was laughing at my faces and responding to my questions. He was interested in what things were and how they worked. He was patient and quiet while I got things for him. I didn't even know I had this kind of child.
We've gone six days straight without any TV, and I can see an incredible difference in Carter. He seems smarter; he pulls words and instructions right out of the air, commits them to memory and attempts repetition. He's constantly carrying around some sort of book so he can pause exploring to plop down and pretend to read out loud.
It's not that I'm writing this to tell you to turn off your TV. Except that really, I am.
Enjoy your baby. Utilize Grandparents. Take your breaks when you sleep.
I wrote this and left myself almost completely unedited. A lot went through my mind before I decided to publish an incredibly flaw-filled account of the way I'd been raising Carter; it's not easy to own up to a community of thousands of beautiful, baby-loving, internet mothers - especially when there are so many top-notch, sugar coated blogs worth reading. But I'm publishing my story anyway because I consider myself an average mother on the brink of learning to be excellent. I know if just one of you can read this, relate to it and make a change, it will have been worth posting.
(loving your votes)