Tele-vision impaired

(If you are bored to tears by my hand wringing over TV watching for Zoe, and trust me I AM TOO, then I suggest you skip this post. )

We still aren't really doing TV with Zoe. But we're both sick with a cold and in spite of it, Zoe's been SUPER chatty and needy and active and impossible while I'm cooking and, well, I've been showing her more and more youtube clips from Sesame Street (Hello, slippery slope!). And they are fine by me, not too commercial, not exposing her to age-inappropriate information but MAN is it annoying to have to cue up another one every 2 minutes. And AND when your youtube clip is finished, these little boxes pop up to show you other clips you might be interested in. This is how she has discovered, and fallen in love with, Barney. And started singing that sign-of-the-apocolypse "I love you" song. SHOOT ME NOW.

(Is it just me or is leaving a toddler alone with a laptop on the table for even a second just asking for trouble?)

So I think we are finally ready to move away from short clips on the computer and turn on the TV. (You: Thank God and SHUT UP ALREADY.) We may start showing her half hour bits of Planet Earth and I just ordered some Little Bear videos from Amazon (our parenting education teacher recommended them and she's no fan of TV.). When they arrive, CG and I will spend a thrilling evening previewing them just to make sure there aren't any images of boogeymonsters or animal sacrifice or the like. I can't imagine we're going to have concerns about a little bear who plays with friends named Duck and has picnics on Pudding Hill for f's sake.

Of course, with this much hand-wringing, one has to suspect that it's not just about the TV, though I've felt ambivalent about TV for a long time. But I also feel a deep ambivalence about Zoe growing up and I think I'm projecting some of that onto our decision about TV. I feel her babyhood rapidly slipping away. She is no longer my baby, content to sit in my arms and gaze at her hands, babbling and smiling. Every day she is more and more her own person and any inadvertent but powerful illusion I had about her as some extension of myself, one I could control and protect, fades away. As she grows, the dominant culture is going to have more and more of a role to play and that, frankly, scares me.

We don't plan on keeping her in a bubble, but I do want to limit some of the messages that I feel are strong in TV programming; the commercialism and the gender role entrenchment for starters. I'm sick of going to the children's salon and having the hair dresser assume EVERY TIME that Zoe wants the "pretty princess bucket" of toys rather than the airplanes (which she really wants). The pediatric dentist marvels at the fact that she doesn't know Arielle from Aurora. Strangers point out Bert and Ernie in the checkout line at Target as if she must know exactly who they are. Do we really have to start all this stuff so young? Can we connect with children without animated characters?!

But I'm not so crazy as to think keeping TV from her will protect her from commericialism completely. She will learn about princesses eventually and if she loves them, well, then we'll do some princesses (*gag*choke*). She will have friends who teach her about specific TV shows and characters and we will just have to hope we are also instilling a healthy framework through which to critically view it all.

I battle internally, wanting to expose her to knowledge and beauty and complexity (not to mention the fun and lighthearted parts of our dominant media culture) in our world all while protecting her from all that's scary and unjust and adult. TV is my current lightening rod for this struggle. I will have to let go a bit. Of her. Of my ambivalence about TV and our culture and the world at large.

Perhaps there is some correspondence between thinking it's time for Zoe to finally watch some TV and the fact that my TV watching is undergoing a HUGE increase. All December, we barely watched anything. The election was over so no more nervous tummy political coverage. And so many shows were on hiatus. Now our DVR is full- American Idol, Rock of Love Bus (awww yeaaaaaahhhh. This is reality trash at its finest!), the Office, 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy, The Daily Show. And on deck this month: Big Love (YAY! YAY!), Flight of the Conchords and Lost. I wonder how I'm going to have any time for anything besides TV.

I obviously like some TV in my life. It can be a fun, relaxing way to spend some time. I hope to teach Zoe how to balance it in her life, as I continually relearn how to have moderation and balance in my own.


Anonymous said...

I was definitely weirded out by Mimi learning all the Sesame Street characters before she ever started watching TV. She must have picked them up at school somehow.

Marie Green said...

You might also like the old-school sesame streets (or the new ones are fine too). Also, my FAVORITE kids show is Charlie and Lola. HIGHLY reccomend. You will love it- (I think)- it's whimsical, artsy, sweet, with real kids voices. The kids are creative, have great imaginations, and are so kind to each other. It's all in all fabulous.

Swistle said...

I love the Old School Sesame Street, too: we have Vol 1 and Vol 2 on DVD, but I think Vol 2 is better.

I let my kids watch TV and they STILL don't know all these characters people think they'll know. It's a little frustrating. People are like, "Who's your favorite Power Ranger?" or "Did you like Cars/Nemo?" and the kids don't know what they're talking about. Some kid media is too scary for ME, so I don't let the kids watch it either.

On YouTube you can make a "playlist." Then when you tell it to play your playlist, it'll play all those videos one after another, without you having to click to start each one. It's a little faulty (sometimes it stalls and I don't know why), but it's GREAT when it works.

Eleanor Q. said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one out there who doesn't think their kids needs to be watching TV. When people ask if Fussbot watches TV and I say no, I get weird looks. Good for you that you were/are able to stick to your guns for so long.

desperate housewife said...

Oh gosh. Big Love and Flight of The Conchords are big hits around here. Actually (you may be horrified by this) Addy can hum along to the Conchords song, "Business Time." Ahem. We're assuming it's just a silly song to her and she has no idea what the lyrics mean.

Hillary said...

I totally understand your concerns. It's the commercialism that gets me. I don't wear brand names because I don't want to pay for the privilege of being a walking billboard. I don't want my kid to be one either and avoiding television seems to be the first step in avoiding that. I just posted a little rant about this. I'm Netflixing Muppet Show and old school Sesame Street.

Anonymous said...

You can't go wrong with Sesame Street, but I'll HIGHLY recommend Peep and the Big Wide World -- it's on TLC, and is an adorable, funny, gentle introduction to scientific inquiry. Check it out online -- they have video clips on the website.

miyoko said...

Phoebe sings along with the Conchords too!-- Foux Du Fa Fa. It's on her Faves music mix. Too funny.

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