Transitioning from TV

(C) Wynand Delport 2008

I believe the studies that suggest that TV isn’t really helpful for children because such passivity occurs for the viewer. Yet, I’d let the viewing get out of hand during a difficult few weeks.

So, even though I wasn’t over my cold yet, I had a good Listening Exchange, in which my listening partner reminded me that I’m a good mom, and I had a chance to release some of my many upsets.

I took courage and asked my husband to fix the cabinet lock for me. The next morning when the kids asked for TV I said lightly, “We’re taking a break from TV!” For a while we just snuggled but within 20 minutes my 4 1/2 -year- old son was sobbing on the floor about not getting to watch TV. This was interesting since his first response to things unpleasant during the heavy TV period was to get angry and loud. Now, with no TV, his sadness was instant.

I took heart, held him, and wondered what the day would be like since it had been an unusually long stretch that we’d watched a lot of videos in our house. I wondered what feelings might have been kept in check due to that distraction.

Within minutes the kids initiated a discussion on what there was to do. And they asked why we were taking a break from TV. I said (as has been discussed between us before) “when we’re watching TV we aren’t really playing, or learning by noticing the world around us. Today we could draw, cut things out of paper, look out the window, or play in the sandbox outside. We could eat breakfast, play — so MANY things!”

They both decided they wanted BIG teddy bear pancakes for breakfast and they both wanted to help. It was fun stirring the batter together. I realized the weeks with TV had halted their usual cooking-with-me time we’d had before. At breakfast my son began crying hard again about “pretexts” such as his pancake wasn’t big enough and then I put his milk in the wrong cup. Previously he had several minutes on the floor crying hard because I chose the wrong pants for him to wear.

I had a few concerns about whether I’d have enough attention for them particularly with my cough and headache–but I was able to kindly say, “I hear you, honey” or even get close for a few moments and put my warm hand on his shoulder. Then my 2 1/2-year-old daughter started in too. She began crying hard because she wanted to “win” at getting to the bathroom door first.

“Oh boy,” I thought, “This is gonna be a day!” But I managed to just be there and not be impatient. I was just thinking to myself that I had a lot of courage to turn off the TV when I’m sick, when to my surprise, my son broke out in song. This is what he sang, complete with hand motions and dance steps — a song from his preschool which he told me later he’d never sung all by himself before. It’s such a beautiful song with these words:

“Let all the children waken, The sun is in the sky,
Awaken! Awaken! And hear the Cuckoo cry.
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
Wake up! Be Happy! Wake up Mr. Sun,
The night has gone, The day has begun! ”

Tears came to my eyes and I was so GLAD that I cared enough about my kids to turn off that TV. My daughter then stood in front of the mirror and practiced opening one eye while closing the other. By having time together, feelings and all, rather than virtual time my children had already showed me the interesting ways their minds work. I wasn’t right at their side all day, either. Here is a list of a few of the things they spontaneously did together while I cleaned, wrote, answered the phone and made tea. They made letter shapes out of bead strings, played hide and seek, laughed and hugged, played by the back door, called hello to neighbors.

Turning off the TV and allowing and supporting their feelings (even if not perfectly) immediately opened up possibilities–and the reality of their creativity, intelligence and hopefulness about the day. (Mine too!)

– A mother in Portland, OR

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