what I rarely admit about how I parent

When my children have a lot of screen time, we all feel cluttered and cranky. I can’t talk about this much, though, because it’s a loaded topic. In the past, I’ve brought up my preference that our children don’t spend much time in front of screens (television, computer, other) and I’ve found people defensive. More than defensive, I find people want to tell me I “shouldn’t feel so bad about it” if I let the girls have screen time so I can take a break for myself.

People really want me to feel less bad about it. That probably comes from good intentions. But, it misses the point. I feel gross when they have a lot of screen time because we all feel gross. I feel bad about it because the effects are heavy. I don’t feel bad because I’m some kind of monster as a parent. I simply feel bad that I’ve come to a point where the easier answer is screen time, knowing the consequences will be more hyper-stress energy than if I wait it out and we stay screen time free.

What “a lot of screen time” means for me is more than an hour and/or two days or more in a row. When we have the screen going for more than an hour or two, our home feels crowded, tired, and too busy and loud. When that happens for a couple days in a row, we might as well’ve had no sleep the night before. It’s a mess.

All that said, tonight the girls watched Frosty the Snowman, and Curious George’s Very Monkey Christmas. (More than two hours.) And, we had screen time last night (the 2nd half of Rudolph and, for the older one, the American Girl holiday movie (Samantha?)). It’s fine, yes, yes, I know it’s fine. But, it also leaves me feeling like we’ve got a layer of sediment coating our lives that won’t clear way until we’ve had several days in a row where they don’t zone out in front of the screen.

When our older daughter was little, she had zero screen time. We used to leave restaurants if there were televisions being forced on us. I appreciate our zealous commitment to the value of simplicity through limited screen time. When we started adding screen time into her life, it was limited almost exclusively to nature programs and some preschool programming (Franklin the Turtle, Little Bear) even though she was four and five years old. Life is different now. The electronic childcare option is a reality for me. Plus, my daughters aren’t always with me (so their time in front of screens isn’t up to me).

It’s difficult talking about not using much screen time in our lives. It’s telling to me that the topic is so fraught with judgments and misunderstandings. It would be nice if I felt I could say “I feel gross and awful when I let the girls watch show after show…” without people trying to tell me to relax about it. We seem to be in such a minority that my distaste for screen time feels more comfortable as a secret than as something I would discuss freely in a casual social context.

Y’know, except for writing about it on the Internet.

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7 Comments

Filed under mindful living, parenting

7 responses to “what I rarely admit about how I parent

  1. What works for you (and your girls)… works. Very simple. I don’t find that you write about parenting in a judgy or lecturing manner. If you did, that would be different ~ though not annoying or problematic for me personally since my daughters are adults and amazing, but for those with little kids, sure, they might get defensive. Some mommy bloggers (not calling you one!) do write harshly. Perhaps they’re being aggressive a priori, in anticipation of criticism. I don’t know.

    I had no issues with TV for my kids, though the older one mostly watched Sesame Street type of stuff cuz I was in control of it all. When SHE took control, things morphed more into Barney and repetitive music vids, which is what the younger one got a lot of, but again, no biggie as far as I was concerned. One thing I did insist upon was low(ish) volume because I can’t stand loud things. Maybe that helped keep them calmer compared to other kids? No idea. But I did notice that when they were at other kids’ houses and watching stuff at higher volume, things got crazy. Behavior deteriorated. I assumed (until I read your post) that this was due to the group dynamic of the kids, but maybe it had to do with the loudness of the TV.

    I noticed that other moms talked louder and played music louder than I did, and I could only tolerate this for small amounts of time. Of course when my kids got older they liked things louder than I did, but that’s what closed doors are for. Still, during their younger, more formative years, when habits of behavior and manners and studying are forming… we were quieter than average.

    Hope you didn’t mind me rambling on!

    • I love your comments, always.

      As you wrote about the noise factor, I’m thinking that has something to do with it. Definitely.

      With older, we had only very slow and quiet shows. Now, we’ve got more mainstream garbage at times and it’s all IN YOUR FACE. I mean, relatively speaking. I think if we were only using the gentle stuff, it’d feel less chaotic. The aftermath, I mean.

      I need quiet, too. I sometimes turn on some Baroque music to add some liveliness to the kitchen and I end up feeling like everyone’s shouting, even if we aren’t at all! Keep it simple, etc.

      :-)

  2. I feel the same way, gross and awful, when my son has watched too much TV… or any TV, really. It’s amazing the things children do when they are left to explore the world and use their imaginations. And even when there’s conflict or whining or whatever, then that is the stuff of relationship-building, which can’t happen when the TV mutes all of that out.

    • If you get this reply, I hope, I’d love to know how it is for you to talk to your friends/parenting peers about this. I find it taboo, or at least very scary for me to even touch on the subject.

      • It’s as difficult to talk about as any parenting subject, I think. It feels like the only right thing to say about parenting is, ‘Anything you do is great, as long as the kids are loved,’ or ‘Everyone does what works for them.’ And then we have to leave it at that. I’d love to have more open dialogues with people about parenting choices. And to just be able to say, ‘TV makes me uncomfortable. It just FEELS wrong. What do you think?’ I usually just go all PC, and say, ‘Yeah, he watches some TV (true), but I try to limit it as much as possible so that he’s active and doing other things.’ To me, it’s no different than infant feeding choices, sleep choices, discipline style, schooling and on and on… I don’t really get to have too many meaningful conversations about these things because we are all just being so polite!

        • Yeah. That sounds like me. I don’t like it when I feel “polite.” It’s what we do, I guess, so much of the time when it comes to parenting. We all know we don’t need yet another opinion shoved onto us, so we don’t want to accidentally do it to someone else.

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