Saturday, February 20, 2010

the t.v. is broken

Here is our morning, spending time together in the studio.

Several weeks ago, I broke the TV. Or at least this is what I told Adelaide over breakfast one rainy monday morning. She listened to me intently, took it all in and then... her face broke, her shoulders slumped, and she cried and cried. Sobbed. Much to my amazement.. I was not really expecting this kind of reaction from her at all. How could the TV have become that important to my little two-year-old?

At one time, Addie had very little interest in ever watching television. She just seemed to prefer to do other things. But one of my goals is to (try to) have balance in life, and so I thought a little bit of watching together here and there would be fine. It is great fun to share some of my very favourite movie clips with her - Scenes from wonderful films such as Kiki's delivery service, My Neighbour Totoro, Mary Poppins, Bambi. Adelaide began to love the characters and songs from these films, and every so often we'd watch a little together. These times were such a treat.

But then... over the past few months, my work and store have been busy and busier. And all of us became very sick, one by one by one. More and more it became easier to stick Adelaide in front of the TV - just for a few moments. Sometimes, when I was sick and with no help available, I would collapse with exhaustion on the couch beside her and try to get a little rest. Sometimes I would bring work down and try to get things done. And then I would end up leaving her downstairs on her own while I worked upstairs. More and more this became familiar and then, routine. Somehow along the way, it became normal for Adelaide to watch television every day. Somehow, these most treasured times of my life became something so easily taken for granted.

What I didn't realise until later was that she was also growing into a miserable child. Much of the time she would be unhappy - whining, complaning, and disagreeable. Not fun to take places or be with like she used to be. Everything a fight. Often she would wake in the night, screaming, crazed, unconsolable - not letting me near her. It felt as though the connection that Adelaide and I have always had was fading, and I began to panic in my heart that I was doing something wrong. I began to fear that simply following my gut when it came to parenting was failing my daughter. I felt as though the person who I am closest to - her - was becoming a stranger to me, at only two years old. I wasn't ready for this distance now, and I'm not sure if I will ever be.

I considered it all a lot. And then I finally realised that, like most things, I have change myself first. In order to change her. I realised that I have been taking on too much, and that this is not what I want at this time in my life. I had forgotten that I will never have these days with her ever again, and how important this time with her is to me. And that I need to remember to treasure this time with her, not take it forgranted simply because our time together has become just part of an everyday routine. The norm. Not special.

And so I broke the TV. (or, unplugged it, and took the batteries out of the remote control)

The first days were hard. HARD. No TV for Adelaide means so much more work for me as a mother. Each day all day I am constantly playing, reading, singing, dancing, creating. Just being with her, teaching her, showing her the world. At the end of each day, I have been falling into bed exhausted and sleeping heavily all night long (for once in my life).

But all of this hard work is only for the short term, I have found out. The result of the no TV experiment is amazing! Both Charles and I are very much stunned and are constantly gawking at the results - for we absolutely have our wonderful sweet little daughter back again. Chatting, singing, dancing, dreaming up games and play-times which send my brain boggling. She is co-operative, fun and easy-going. She makes up and plays her funny little games on her own, independently. She once again is a joy to be around.

And she is back with me. We are connected, as we once were and always should be. Both of us now have little to no interest in the television. Being together is so much better than that!

66 comments:

hillary said...

We had exactly the same experience when our daughter was a similar age. She almost stopped playing/imagining, even if she only watched an hour or two of "educational" programming. The rest of the day would be a miserable whinefest! And once that box was off for good, she came back with a vengeance: singing, dancing, making art, etc. As she got older we reintroduced some TV time (Saturdays morning cartoons for example) and it once again became special fun time together. It's really interesting to read that it wasn't just our kid!

Megan said...

Wow! This really fascinates me. In the morning, I plunk my little one in front of the TV (which she watches intently) while I get our breakfast, and do my morning things. I tend to leave it on as "background" noise for myself but I often catch her watching it through the day as she plays. This post has inspired me to turn it off and just play some nice music during the day and use the TV more as a special thing for once in a while. Thanks for this little wake up call! (It gets so easy to put her by the TV to allow for things to be easier for me but it becomes a crutch I guess).

Holly said...

I have found the same thing to be true! They seem to want to watch this or that show. You turn it on, they're so happy, you get some work done, then the moment it's over they are worse than before. We haven't had a TV in six years, but now watching things on the internet is a temptation. I, like you, will just put an end to it and watch the imagination flourish!
Thanks!

growfamilygrow said...

My little one just turned three last weekend. We did really well with no tv until 2 years old and then, just as you describe, it became a crutch. I hate the whining about tv and programs, I think I'm just going to have to break the tv and lose the dvd players too. Well, after our 18 hour airplane flight tomorrow with just her and I during which I'm afraid I will employ them and so save my sanity for another day. I'm glad you have your little creative girl back.

kh said...

Totally relate! We went through a similar thing when our now 7 year old was 2ish. Our tv is broken M-F, and only works for about an hour on Saturday and sunday, and frequently that is forgotten!

Amanda said...

You are a great mother for doing this for your daughter. I hope that when the TV becomes "fixed", there is very minimum time with it.

april said...

This was so good to read. Thank you for sharing.

It's both fascinating and frightening. But I'm so glad you got your lovely little girl back.

I only discovered your blog recently, and I just love it. I've read all the posts through just before Adelaide was born, and they're all so sweet and thoughtful. It was so fun to see your daughter grow up. :)

You are a wonderful mother. Keep doing what you know is right.

Rose said...

We have a love/hate relationship with the tv in our home, too. And you're right, at a point it becomes so much easier to turn it on just for an hour or two a day. It's a slippery slope.

When I "broke" the tv on my boy years ago, it was HARD, but he pulled through and began playing BY HIMSELF! I think the time is coming soon for me to pull the plug for my girl, too. She just turned two, and has been watching only for a few months, but she asks for it all the time.

We really love audiobooks on cd. Have you given those a try? My daughter loves "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "Little Bear." Both classics.

Have you read "The Plug-In Drug?" It is fascinating!

Mandy said...

Wonderful post, thanks for your honesty! I have been feeling the same way about my two, but I've been afraid to pull the plug for fear of getting nothing done... I hope to have the courage to try this experiment! Congrats on your successes, and lovely blog!

shannon maclaggan said...

we don't have a television in our home, but my son, who is close to Addie's age is fascinated with television just from going over to grandmamas house and watching disney movies. every time we are over there, he is like a zombie staring at a screen. he wont even answer me if i speak with him! coloring? baking? playing dressup? not a chance if the tv is on!
this has completely solidified my parenting views that tv is simply not stimulating for a child. it does nothing to foster their imaginations, and its so antisocial and disconnected...
i know it can be tough and much harder work for the mama, but i try to think of it as a labour of love.
good luck!

Rambling Renovators said...

Thank you for posting this. My little one is only 10 months old but I know there will be the temptation to plunk her down in front of the TV as she gets older. I needed to be reminded that what is easy for me sometimes is not best for her. So glad you have your sweet little girl back!

kyrie said...

You're very brave to admit what a slippery slope TV can be! We got into a daily habit at one point when we had a new baby in the house (I have three children four and under, so there was a lot going on), for a couple of weeks...we hadn't really watched much before then, and it really did change them!

I have to say that even though it felt like TV was my crutch, having the TV OFF has given me much more time to myself than having it on ever did. They are happy, creative, imaginative, and love to play together for hours, something I can't imagine would have ever happened if we made TV a large part of our lives.

Lindsey said...

Thank you for sharing that story! What a wonderful narrative. I'm so glad to hear that your family is back in balance.

365DoT said...

I love what you had to say here. I've always wanted to "break" the TV.

I'm so happy that it worked out for you.

Tamara said...

I admire your courage for writting about this and taking the steps to make a change. We recently bought a DS for my kids to keep them entertained when we were out etc however my son (it seems to affect him so much more than girls) became seriously addicted to screens. We have recently introduced a two week ban and I have got my gorgeous boy back.
It is harder at times, esp. when you work from home, but better for them. By the way, I adore your blog!

Anonymous said...

I have been a follower of your blog for quiet some time, and alot of your posts such as this one and the one about your cat being abused just send me into tears! You are a great mother to admit your mistakes and do the right thing. Your daughter is so beautiful and it shows what a great bond you two have. I wish you and your family the best in life. You have truly inspired me to be a better mother, and tomorrow I will not let my daughter watch tv!!

amberlee said...

Thank you so much for talking about this! For the first time last night I let my 13 month old watch a little TV. I could not get her to sleep and the olympics were on. I think it did somehing to her brain as we had the WORST night ever - up almost all night. Until I read this I never even thought it had anything to do with the telly, but I'm not taking any more chances. You're a wonderful mother and I love checking in on your blog.

littlepuffyclouds said...

it's so great to read your post! I have really been struggling with the TV lately! My husband is a pediatrician and wants to limit TV to 1x a day for 20-30min... So I try to stick to that (in my mind knowing that none would even be better)...but when I am tired I let her watch WAY more!! Like up to 1-2 hours, so I can sleep next to her... Aargh, it really is like others here have said... a slippery slope. She didn't watch any TV until she was 2 and now she expects it everyday. I want to break the TV too, but I am scared!!!

Rebecca said...

What a lovely story. I can believe that TV has that effect on children. You're right, it's so much better to be playing and making things. She is adorable.

Polly R said...

wow that is so interesting! More parents should try this! :) x

Julie said...

Isn't it amazing?! Our eldest who is 5 definitely watches too much tv and we noticed. So we've been weening him, much to his dislike, but it's definitely needed. Thankfully he too became accustom to not watching tv all day long and started playing with his toys much more again, which I think he finds more fun. I was guilty too though, and am thankful to have discovered the world of craft, because I'd much rather do that than watch tv......most of the time! Cheers!

Kat said...

We never normally watch the TV with the exception of when my daughter is so sick she can't move. Then the odd session creeps in and boy is it hard to revert back to screen free days! Well done, I know you will continue to benefit from breaking your TV ;)

Carolyn Parker said...

We threw out our TV last year and never really missed it, until recently with all the talk about the Olympics. But I do feel blessed not to be under its spell. Brilliant post about how no TV changed your life w your precious. The exhaustion seems to be turning into a dance.

Janelle said...

I'm convinced that the world would be a better place if more TVs were "broken."

Coriander Girl said...

This is good advice even for people who don't have children. My boyfriend and I work so hard during the day that we've become addicted to the escape of shows on DVD. I'm not reading half as much as I did when there was no TV and I feel my business would benefit more if I turned the TV off for good. We're almost caught up to the current season of Lost and then I can have my life back! Help Me!

damiec said...

I have lived through this experience too. Our TV isn't "broken" but the kids have been trained to know that it is almost always off limits.

I leaned on it too heavily during my second pregnancy and the months after, until we realized that our charming, imaginative and cheerful 3 yr old girl had been transformed into a whiny, surly, "bored" creature. Maybe the first few days of withdrawal were tough, but soon after everything became so much easier and more pleasant.

I do believe that TV has some serious negative even narcotic-like effects on the brains of little ones - even in small doses. We do love audio books and music, but other than that, we really try to keep the electronic stimuli to a minimum and save movie night for truly special times and tv for sick days only.

We're all the better for it, and it's so nice to know that there are kindred spirits out there - sometimes it feels like I'm the only one being a tough about the TV.

Leanda said...

It's interesting to read this as a mother-to-be. I am expecting my first child in July, but for a long time have had fairly strong opinions on how children should be raised. This is obviously not something I will be able to realise until I actually have a child, but the TV issue is one I wonder about.

I think it's all too easy nowadays for people to plonk their child in front of the TV as if it were some sort of child-minder. This is not something I intend to do. I realise a parent needs a break sometimes, but it seems from reading your post that children are great at occupying themselves in the right environment.

I believe that the TV can provide some educational value in small doses, but maybe it's best left until they are a little older. Thanks for sharing your experience :)

Catalina Maria said...

I can understand perfectly what you did :-). I decided to give our TV to my parents when my daughter was 6 months old. We liked to watch TV, but we haven't regretted what we did. We discovered that we had much more time to share and to enjoy our little girl without the "silly-box". We use the internet and when we need to watch some cartoons, we choose the ones we like, when we want and she doesn't see any advertisements. No one is missing TV ;-)

dharmaflyer said...

Thanks for sharing your thought on this. My son is gadget mad. I think they may become broken soon!

DW said...

This is great. I haven't had a TV in...10? 12?...*many* years and I don't miss it ONE BIT! I am not only amazed at how TV-dependent some kids are, but how many adults around me are, too! Good for you guys for making the change. I also think that the world would be a better place if more TV's were *broken*.

heathashli said...

Study after study has found that TV adversely affects children's brains & that they should not watch it until after age 5.
We've never had TV, but I would let my boys watch Maisy &/or Kipper DVDs on occasion. I too discovered the more they watched, the worst their behavior got & the less creative/imaginative they were. Now that they are older, the same goes for video games. An unplugged child is a happy child.

jennifer said...

i have four kids and have found that grumpiness, selfishness and discontent rise in direct proportion to the amount of TV watched. i have never gotten rid of the TV permanently, but we're all so much more friendly and interesting without it.

Ribbons Undone said...

Okay, so you got in a rut. And the TV was a crutch. Don't beat yourself up over that one. My daughter and son are 8 and 6 now; I've gotten thru the terrible 2's--twice. Bottom line: Children learn mostly by role modeling. They are watching and listening to you--always. Your daughter will certainly grow up to be a well-rounded and talented individual. She learns from you and what you do each day. Even when you're not interacting with her, even when you are not speaking to her. She is exposed to your talent, your dedication, your creativity, your drive--this is what she will learn.

olivefarm said...

What a lovely story! I'll keep this all in mind when we have our little one =) The bond you share with your daughter is incredibly uplifting and inspirational.

Much Love!

natalie said...

Pure sweetness. Yay for breaking the tv and sticking with it! Yay for you:)

Pixiepurls said...

I never had sydney watch TV at all until i got pregnant and was sick all the time, it went down hill from there and has for the last year. I keep saying we are going to just take the tv away but have not done it yet, with a little baby it's nice to know she's focused on the tv and not climbing the furniture or writting on the walls. ugh, double edge sword! the babyt is 6 months old now and I've made a promise to myself that one she is 9 months old I will ditch the tv, she'll be old enough to not need my hands on so much and i won't have to leave sydney alone for as long when I try to get her to sleep or nurse her, crossing my fingers. I believe it's the right thing to do and want to do it!

love, honor, and cherish said...

I grew up without TV (we simply could not get reception where I lived and cable didn't exist in Alaska for many, many years) - I don't remember not caring about it at all.

For the record though - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE television. Absolutely and without question. However, I never watch TV - I mean, I don't just sit in front of it watching. I craft or do schoolwork or workout or cook. It frustrates me to just sit and look at it. For me, TV is not an activity. It is something that is on in the background to enhance whatever else is going on. I think that attitude has a lot to do with not watching TV for the first 18 years of my life.

Jacinta said...

Wow! Thank-you for this post! I grew up with no tv, but we have one now. My daughter is 7 months, and I wasn't sure how it was going to be in the future... You've made me realise what a good thing it can be to have little tv influence for her. And you've generated so many interesting comments! Take care!

Islay said...

We've fallen into this trap on more than one occasion when my little boy has been ill, and it's always a struggle to get back out of it, but it's so worth it when you do! I'm always amazed that he becomes more alive and yet more calm when we have less TV and other digital interruption in our lives.

April G. said...

Every time I check in on your blog, your words, photos and ideas fill me with inspiration. I thank you for how open and honest you are when writing and for sharing your talents as a designer and maker of lovely things, with the world.

Anonymous said...

Well done! Our TV is plugged in, but no cable so what we have available is very limited. It works out well. Often there is no desire to watch because there really is nothing on.
margie

Anonymous said...

I'm happy for all three of you. I'm sure it has been difficult. So many families of former days lived closer to family and friends and had help and a break from each other.

My nephew came to stay with me for a week once and I had him draw some things and he drew a tv set that was just blank, and with as much vocab as he had at age 5, he told me what it was like when he watches television. Basically, that his mind gets blank.

Made me sad. I once read about video games, but I'm sure the same could apply for tv, also, that people (adults and kids) can take on addictive behaviors if exposed to too much.

I'm glad you're sticking it out and choosing the most important thing. We love your stuff, but not at the expense of your daughter.

Rachel said...

So smart. My sister and I were raised without any TV at all and I think it was a good thing. We both read constantly and we got very good at entertaining ourselves. The TV seems to train kids to be passively entertained, rather than actively entertained.

Tuxedo Black Cashmere Pink said...

Great post!! What a refreshing tresure to read!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. We were pretty good for the first two years but then fell into the TV trap. I wish I could convince my husband to cut the cord, as I think I could survive quite nicely without it. I would love to see how it effects our daughter's behaviour.

Beauty Geek said...

One summer I realized I was paying a cable bill for one channel(kids).So I cut it off for the summer. We didn't get it back until recently and it's been 3 1/2years sine that summer. We watched movies when it suited us and my kids ages 7,5, and 2 learned how to play. Now at 10,8,and 5 they don't think to watch tv that much.Our quality of life was enhanced! I love your blog!

Eren said...

Yes, yes same here...no TV. Love it. Don't miss it. The connection to that little one is worth every extra minute of time finding something to occupy her.

You are a wonderful mama.

Lisa said...

You are wonderful!

henry said...

We have 4 boys (teenagers now)... when people compliment us on them and ask about any parenting tips, I say "the one piece of advice I would give others (if asked) is no/very limited tv". We have been able to avoid all the advertising gimmicks - subsequently they have great imaginations, enjoy healthy food, don't want every new toy, and read a lot of books. It is so worth the extra effort!!

lifeinredshoes said...

See what a smart Mama you are, listening to your heart?!
I'll be off now to get a hammer, and pay a visit to the T.V.

tsmurf said...

You are an insightful and fabulous mother! Thank you for sharing your lessons of love with your sweet baby. My little ones are now approaching their 2nd decades and your sweet tales of lifw with your daughter have brought happiness to my mind as I reminisce about those early years with my own babes. You are right- the years slip by all too fast!

Lauren said...

I think your blog is so nice. Everyone should 'break' their TV. It's just a big time waster anyway.

Georgia said...

I have just recently discovered your blog and just love it. I think I have read most of the posts now. You sound like a wonderful mother.

Regarding the TV, I have found the same thing happens to my boys. I have an 8 year old and 5 year old twins and it still happens at their age. They don't usually watch much TV and are generally happy, co-operative, creative, playful children. If they do watch TV they are awful to have around. It is hard work as a mother to leave the TV off, but I think it is definately worth it.

Rachel said...

I love this! I have been struggling with the same thing. My excuse has been that I have a 9 month-old as well as a two year-old, but you are right about it changing the attitude. Thanks for the reminder!

april said...

Sorry for commenting again, but after reading all of the comments since my first one, I realized that many of them grew up with no TV, and/or already implement the "no/limited TV" rule.

I wanted to give you my perspective as one who grew up GLUED to the TV. My mother was (and still is) addicted to the TV and radio (and now the computer, especially Facebook). She says she likes it because it's interesting and she learns new things, but also because it turns her thoughts off. She meant it as a good thing (so she doesn't focus on her worries), but I think it's incredibly sad to purposely let your mind go blank for hours a day.

Because my mom had the TV and/or radio on at all times (yes, sometimes both), I grew up addicted to it myself. I was full of information, and when my friends would ask, "Where did you learn that?" they came to anticipate me saying, "From TV."

It wasn't until high school, when I became too busy to watch TV with my mom, that I found my love for other things. Reading, writing, drawing, painting, music, acting, etc. That's when I finally realized that the TV really was a crutch, and I didn't need it anymore. That especially pleased my dad, who constantly told us kids how much it irritated him to have us turn off the TV for dinner and say, "Oh! When did you get home, Dad?" even though he greeted us when he came in.

But now I struggle with the Internet. I'm on it, either for work or play, from the time I get up to the time I go to bed, excluding my daily commute, the occasional work meeting, bathroom breaks, when my husband wants to watch a movie or play video games together, and supper (I'm usually on it during breakfast and lunch).

I think I need to break my Internet. It's become my TV (which we only ever use for the occasional movie and my husband's video games), and I don't have time anymore for any of my artistic loves that I discovered in high school.

To summarize, as one who grew up with the TV as her best friend, LEAVE IT OFF. And watch out for its cousin, the Internet. Your daughter (and you and your partner) will be much better people for it.

Rebecca said...

Right I am trying this out! Will let you know the results - thanks for the inspiration!

Stephanie said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. I visit it regularly ever since seeing your article in BHG. I completely agree about the TV issue. My 2-year-old is so much happier when I don't even offer it as an option. And I love watching her PLAY!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm an occasional blog reader but i do enjoy reading your blog. My kids are now shortly going on 16 and 15. I stayed home during their first 5 yrs to watch them grow and it was what i call my "Wonder Years".

I made a point from the very beginning not to watch TV and there were times when i've had to try and get them to watch some really good Disney videos but they weren't even interested.

We played, made noise, made a lot of mess, built toys, dismantled toys and rebuilt toys. We drew and drew and drew; coloured and coloured and coloured and read and read and read. And we had naps twice a day. And as you say, I was exhausted by the end of the evening. My husband worked from home then and he would also make the time in his day to play with them and take over as the "Master Rug Rat". A child occasionally came home from kindergarten asking who were those TV personalities that everyone talked about.

Fast forward to today and we are still not TV people. I'm back at work and i can't participate in the "water cooler" discussions about reality shows etc etc. Our kids are now on the internet but they have a whole range of interests which they share with me and I them. They have learned to use the web as their tool and not a crutch. My two kids are independent, self reliant and well liked by their friends and peers.

So just letting you know that you can safely bet that you will undoubtedly reap more benefits than you can imagine.

Keep up your beautiful blog.

Anonymous said...

Hello, found your blog after reading BHG. I just read through this post and you have said what I have been thinking (and burying) deep down, the TV needs a break. Thanks.

Pink Dogwood said...

WOW - I love these conversations. Love them. We recently "broke" the tv too - I noticed the girls getting cranky after they watched their 30 minutes of Curious George every morning. That's silly! It's taken me really staying on top of our morning and giving up a few of my own things but it's so worth it not having the tv on. That thing is evil! :)

All this to say, I just stumbled upon your blog (lucky me) and am so grateful for your honesty and transparency. What a delightful read.

lesley [smidgebox] said...

such a lovely post! we have gone through this several times with our 5yo. when we got married, he was 2.5, and i was so so busy with preparations, that the tv became a bit of a crutch for me, i admit. before then, we had really not watched at all, and i marveled at people who "bragged" that they're children could watch a whole movie at that age. I was glad my son couldn't, or wouldn't! as time went on the tv seemed to become very important to him, and we cut it back to 15 minutes a day for a long time. When our second child was born, the tv came back! now we have it on not a whole lot, but enough for me to know that it has changed the way he plays, and the way he behaves + interacts.
Thanks so much for the push, we are going to turn it off! i know it will make our days more pleasant. [but for occasional viewings of our favourites, my neighbor totoro + spirited away, which he so loves, and i don't mind him watching ;)]

Jennifer said...

We do not have TV in our house. We do have the capability for movies, and I try to limit them. I grew up without TV myself and I am so much better for it. My kids are super imaginative and play very very well by themselves for long stretches (they are almost 4 and almost 2). I know it's not all b/c of no TV, but I think it really helps. Good for you!

SK said...

Thanks for sharing this--very motivational for me as mom to an almost 2 year old!

Tamara said...

Wow! I cannot believe the words that you have written! You have described in perfect detail my very own experience with my 3 year old! I too am a believer and practicer of the "broken TV" I love it and I love how busy my children and I are playing together and also how deeply I sleep now ( :

Jana said...

How wonderful-Sometimes motherhood is a difficult road but so rewarding. What a lovely story about you and your daughter reconnecting.
Jana

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