Last summer in the park I overheard two mothers falling over themselves to show how much they restrict television viewing for their children.
Mum A: Actually I can't remember what she said because I was so amazed by Mum B.
Mum B: Our kids are allowed to watch one DVD on a Friday afternoon before Shabbat (we have half-day school on Fridays before the Sabbath). And only if they ask for it. That's it. And if they forget to ask, they've missed it for another week.
She looked so pleased with herself and I wasn't in the mood to enter a discussion about it, so I kept my mouth shut. But it left me wondering - what did she think she was achieving with this draconian TV law?
First a little background. I came from a home where the TV was on from when we got home from school until the last person went to bed around midnight, except for the half hour when we retreated into the kitchen for supper, en famille, around the table. Even I think this was too much.
No one was forced to sit in the lounge and watch it, but it was a temptation that had to be actively fought in order to do something else. It was so easy to say - I'll just watch this programme and then I'll go and work. Before you knew it, it was 10pm and who feels like starting work at 10pm?
My sister, and many of my friends say - no TV until homework is finished and instruments practised. This seems like a good balance and one I will probably adopt when DD is old enough to do homework (either from school or set by me) and music practise.
For now, the TV and I are bringing up DD together. I put it on in the morning so that I can rush around doing what I need to do before we leave for Nursery and work. After Nursery we generally go to the park, out for tea at friends' houses, or to the shops. When we come in it is time for bath and supper. Then the TV goes on until stories and bed.
We usually do puzzles or drawing while the TV is on in the background. So why do we need it? We probably don't but it is company for me while DD is engrossed in her puzzles or artwork, even though I may be helping her. And sometimes she needs to just relax and watch and not do anything. Don't 2 1//2 year olds deserve some down time too?
A friend from Perth, Australia , grew up with early morning runs and swims at the beach, tennis after school, boating at weekends, etc... Another friend from Manchester, UK, grew up hurrying home from school in the rain and watching all this outdoor life on TV. They once debated if either of them, as adults, were better off as a result of their childhood lifestyles. Both are hard-working, intelligent, enjoy hobbies (some active), and have full lives. There was no definite conclusion.
Bottom line: do what is convenient for you and your family, whatever saves your sanity. However, do allow your children the time to do other activities (obligatory or voluntary) without having to fight the temptation of the TV. And most important: do it quietly whilst recognising that other families have different criteria (for me this means: no Daddy to take over in the evening and I need to get some things done in peace). Please don't stuff your smug rigidity down the throats of all the human mums at the park.