No. Maybe. Why Yes, Yes You Can.

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If you have one child, likely your parenting and discipline are constant. You say no and are done with it. When you add in child number two, though, especially within under three years, you are now busier, pulled in more than one direction. You cannot do it all. You relax the rules a bit. With one child you steadfastly say no. When you have two, you might still say no to the first, but the second is younger and less manageable while you fry chicken so, well, maybe. Maybe you can have marshmallows for dinner. By child number three, you’re squarely in first kid = no. Second kid = Maybe. Third = Why yes, yes you can. Anything beyond three kids and it’s a free-for-all: do what the hell you want, just spare me and most of the Fritos.

You try. You try to fight it and say these under five footers do NOT run this house. They are NOT in charge. And then you realize you are talking to the inside of the refrigerator because yes, they do own you and your mind because that cabbage cannot respond to you verbally. You are the feed me, drive me, play with me, feed me again, wipe my butt person. AKA: Mommy. And it’s ok. It’s ok to change your parenting methods as you go. There is nothing that says that what worked for your first will work for the second (or eighth). There is no written rule that says that ice cream can’t be for breakfast. It’s dairy. Like yogurt, only colder.

With our first daughter, who is now 11, we were so determined, so adamant at minimizing TV. She watched so infrequently she was nearly three before she knew who Elmo was. Her days were filled with puzzles and books and coloring. Our second daughter is now eight and by the time she was one, our first daughter was getting more TV but still not as much as she wanted. The second, though, was watching upwards of an hour a day. Because it kept her quiet. And me sane. And then there’s the boy. The boy is now two and unfortunately, I am unable to divulge how much TV he watches because you will surely call the people on us.

It is laziness. TV is easy. And it’s winter. In summer, he’d be outside rather than in front of the TV. And it is mass electronics — it started with my old iPhone to keep him quiet in the car (have you ever tried to make it the last two blocks home praying to the almighty YouTube gods to please, please, please let that video not make it from M to Z before we get there)? Then we let him have the girls’ DSIs because they played music. And then we turned to the computer for YouTube or a movie while I cooked. Showered. Pooped. Napped. Shut up.

Yes, I sat him at the computer or TV because too many times I found myself saying I need to cook dinner and he’s standing on my feet hanging onto my belt loops and if he tugs again my pants’ll come down and your mother is visiting and hasn’t yet seen my bare ass and I’m not sure she’s looking forward to it, so find the fucking remote.

Interestingly (surely not to them) the girls are not allowed to watch TV during the week. “It’ll warp your brains.” But the boy? The number three? The why, yes, yes you can? He pushes his chair over to the computer, turns it on, and hands you the movie of his choice. The oldest girl says quite perturbed, “It’s unfair that he gets to look at something every day and we can’t watch TV until Friday.” I am a parenting wizard, I tell you, and it took me mere minutes to decide to pretend I hadn’t heard her. I should come up with a response, though, for when she actually directs this truth to me.

And you know what? As much as I dislike how much TV he watches, I embrace the option to let it babysit him a bit while I get a load of clothes out of the dryer. We make lists about how we want things to go from the birth to nursing or not, from toddlerhood to TV to food to discipline. We have the best intentions but sometimes it just works out the way it does. I’ve stopped beating myself up over it and you should too. As long as you know you’re doing everything in your power to keep your kids safe, their homework is finished, their stomachs are full, you know their friends and their parents, they aren’t beating classmates with wooden blocks, smoking crack, or taking guns to school — the TV is unlikely to ruin them.

(Any more than you singing Hammer Time! and doing the typewriter dance in the school parking lot will.)

Comments

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  1. 5

    Vinobaby says

    Don’t feel bad. I only have one, and he watches far too much TV Sometimes I care so much I want to yank all the TVs to the curb. Mostly, I let it go. And just wait until your boy discovers video and computer games. You’ll beg him to just watch some TV.

    We can’t win them all…

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    • 6

      Arnebya says

      I am NOT looking forward to video or computer games. He already tries to play Mario on his sister’s DS. I do sometimes just want to unplug, say no more TV. I’m tired of singing that same Curious George song, tired of saying all the words to Toy Story, and for the love of all that’s good in the world, no more Barney. But in all honesty, we occasionally do just turn it off. It’s an ebb and flow and I’m good with the fluctuation.

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  2. 8

    Kara Nutt says

    I only have the one son, but I too fear disclosing just how much TV he watches. I try to reason it away with, “He’s favorite shows are Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs, they’re educational.” And it’s very true, it’s winter and in the summer he is outside most days recreating all the experiments and jobs he saw on TV over the winter.
    I had all sorts of theories on raising kids, then I had one. Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t have him until I was 35. My best friend has commented more than once that anyone who sees my parenting style would assume that T is my youngest of 6 as I am so laid back with him.
    My sister has 2 and she’s just as strict with #2 as she was with #1, but she’s a bit of a control freak anyway. Love her dearly, but we are definitely different parents.

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  3. 9

    Stephanie says

    I feel really bad my oldest is 6, and we are so strict with him, the girl is 4, and gets any thing she wants because she has superior nagging skills and a really annoying voice, and the youngest boy is 2, he is just too cute to say no to (right now). I think I need to relax a bit with the oldest, this blog really made me realize how unfair we are to him :(

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    • 10

      Arnebya says

      You know what, Stephanie? I think about how there’s such a disparity/unfairness and all I can do is try to talk to them, explain why there’s a difference. And that if they want dinner before 8damno’clock they’ll let the boy stare at the screen awhile. We’ve given the girls a bit more leeway on the computer during the week but even that is still kinda strict. I suspect that when he’s of homework age it’ll be the same for him but until then, we are muddling through our parenting choices just like everybody else.

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  4. 11

    shosh says

    ha. this is my life! my oldest two never watched anything. my third was introduced to dora at 2. and my fourth…we’ll he’s 18 months and already knows how to use my ipod to watch elmo.

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  5. 13

    Brittany says

    Too funny. My third just turned two. You know how they say no tv before 2? Well before two she could sing theme songs with Dora and Diego and totally rock out with the backyardigans. C’est la vie. It works here.

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    • 14

      Arnebya says

      Brittany, I still feel bad (kinda sorta not really) that he was watching so much so early. But damned if he isn’t only one of TWO kids in his class of 15 who knows all his colors, shapes, and can count to 18. And every now and again he’ll say si instead of yes, so thank you, Dora.

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  6. 15

    Jana says

    i don’t have any children. only nephews. but i think my sister went thru the same thing. hilarious! and i know my mom did! don’t fret about it. ur a great mom for sure! :-)

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  7. 17

    Melissa says

    I have triplet 3.5 year old boys and they probably spend way too much time on the Leap Pads, I-phones, etc… But I still have some hair that is not gray, have not beaten them or gone insane. They also know the alphabet, can count to twenty and tell you the days of the week. Thank God for KidsTV123 on You Tube. It means I get to actually cook a meal every once in a while without burning something.

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