No. Maybe. Why Yes, Yes You Can.



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.)


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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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  8. 18

    Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 says

    I didn’t allow the Crazies a lot of TV until I dislocated my patella and had to have knee surgery. What is a gimpy lady supposed to do with 2-year old twins? Now they wholeheartedly believe they should be watching a movie every single day…an entire movie a day. Where did I go wrong???

    Oh, and I’m MUCH worse in the winter…I loathe winter.

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    • 19

      Arnebya says

      Yes, this is him! I watch The Hat (Toy Story) or the monkey (Curious George). And hating winter — loathe is not even a strong enough description for what I feel about winter.

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  9. 20

    Melissa says

    I am actually thinking of putting the internet in my car (they can put wi-fi in your car!!) so that we can stream Netflix to the damn iPad because it doesn’t have 3G….seriously……and why does the child not realize that as soon as we pull the car away from the house she will have to play games instead of watching a movie??

    Yeah, I have 2, and yes, my youngest hijacked my husband’s iPad. We even call it HER iPad. I don’t have one, but both my kids do (the oldest is almost 15 and used Christmas / Bday money). The little one also has my old iPhone. Judge – but my kid is NOT screaming in the car making me want to drive into a tree…..and that iPhone is damn handy for grocery shopping.

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    • 21

      Kara Nutt says

      I don’t buy into the “technology is bad” thing… these kids are growing up with it all around them, I’d rather they know how to use it. T, my son, knows how to use our phones, the Ipad, and can use the remote with the roku and netflix to get his shows on. Helps me on those days I have trouble getting up at the crack of dawn with him, like this morning, he came downstairs and started a Dirty Jobs while I drug my butt out of bed. I’m usually up before him, but not always. At least I know on days like this morning he’s not tearing up the place just watching TV.

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      • 22

        Melissa says

        My daughter can do things with my phone and iPad that baffle me. And she is very good at it. So, she is learning to type as well. ;-) See, upside!! I also would rather her be doing that than dismantling the house and making it fall to the ground……

        Oh, and she can turn on and run her Apple TV to watch Netflix. I know adults that can’t manage that – and you know what, I might also indulge in some sleeping during that time as well……

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  10. 24

    Vanessa Jubis says

    I’m SO glad you posted this because yes, yes, I AM this! I have 3 daughters and DD#3 gets a free pass to *almost* everything. No, I don’t feel guilty. A mother is ONE person, not two or three or four. Too much mom guilt doesn’t help us or our kids. If they’re happy, so are WE, ice cream for breakfast and all! ;)

    Bravo, Arnebya! YES! ;)

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  11. 26

    Salena says

    OMG! This is hilarious! It is so true! I have 3 adult kids and 3 little ones ages 6-1/2, 4, and 2. One with special needs. It is so crazy around here that some days, as long as they leave me alone long enough to pee and breathe, they can do whatever they want and I’ll take care of the tornado later on after they are asleep! lol.

    Thanks for this. I needed a good laugh. :)

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  12. 27

    Tarina says

    Exactly. I have had a few people question how much tv i let my kids watch, but I hold firm to my schedule. My tv is actually on for a large portion of my day, and I am not ashamed of that. Why not? Because my kids don’t just sit on their butts in front of it (unless it’s Tangled. Im pretty sure that movie sends out subliminal messages/crack/sedatives/something.) It is on as background noise while we sing the alphabet songs with the Leapfrog kids, or spell words with Word World, or learn about helping our friends with the Wonderpets, or colors with that creepy “Color Crew” show on Netflix with the crayons who want to wear the magic hat (wtf is that?!) but, like some of the other moms said, my 3 year old – even with his speech delays (we had twins when he was 19 months old and he stopped talked completely and basically had to start all over with therapy) knows his colors, can count to 10, knows about 1/3 of his letters by sight recognition… I don’t have the time to sit with him and work on this stuff all the time, so the fact that there are shows out there that can keep his attention while I cook, or change ANOTHER diaper, or try to straighten up today’s tornado, or help the 5th grader with his homework, and in the end still be actually helping him learn, its a godsend. My twins are 18 months old now, and now I can finally sit with all 3 at once and work on letters or colors or shapes… but you all know how hard it is to keep 3 kids interested in the same thing at the same time ;) Mara doesnt wanna play with the blocks today? Cool. She can go color with Blue’s Clues 10 feet away.

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    • 28

      Tarina says

      lol got caught up in what I was writing – the background noise thing was all about how we play other stuff that relates to it across the room from the tv, so while they color green, we find the green blocks, or play with magnets on the fridge, or use our stuffed wonderpets to save whatever toy is in trouble this time :) Some day I’ll be that mom that fills my kids’ day with education and opportunity all by myself, like my mom was… she was a no tv mom til we were in High school… but for now, I’ll sit back and get to read a book for an hour a night and not feel the least bit guilty <3

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  13. 30

    Michele says

    SO glad I am not the only one. With my first girl (now 13.5y) we were very cognizant of what she watched, when she watched, and how much. Then along came girl #2, and suddenly, all bets were off. It’s no wonder she can repeat, verbatim, practically every commercial jingle out there. She’s 10, and about 2 years ago we were in the grocery store and I was paying with my credit card. She, very innocently, but JUST LIKE THE VOICE in the commercial, says…. “Life, takes Visa!” I almost peed my pants and the cashier was hysterical. Truly a marker that she apparently watches too much tv. We’ve cut it down since then, to maybe a half hour after school and then another half hour to hour at night. But, honestly, she is the child that really turned my hair grey, I just don’t have her stamina……

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  14. 33

    Laurie says

    I was in the military and single with my first son so he didn’t get a lot of tv except for the weekends. But now I’m able to be a SAHM (love my husband) and my son sings along with little einsteins, chuggington and mickey mouse club. He is starting to pick things out though and get the answers right and has an uncanny ability to find his games on my iphone

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  15. 34

    Lin says

    Yes, yes, yes! Especially this upcoming month in regards to the TV, as we are in the process of moving to another apartment, with a 2 year old and a 4 year old. “Sure, watch Blue’s Clues until your eyes fall out, just stay the hell out of what I’m packing.” The early childhood experts might throw themselves on the floor and convulse, but a month of brain-rotting has got to be ten times better than living in a place when at any moment something major – heating, plumbing, our gas connection, etc. – could break and it take months to get the landlord to fix.

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    • 35

      Arnebya says

      TV can be our friend, not our enemy, when we have things to get done. Nothing good can come from a 2 yr old unpacking the packing while your back is turned! I don’t care how cute he is.

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  16. 36

    Alissa says

    Ha! This is so true! I have 5 boys. The oldest is 11 and the youngest is 6. So, yeah, TV was my friend after about #3. And if I had a dollar for every time I hear “It’s not fair…Owen [youngest] gets to do whatever he wants” I wouldn’t need to work another day in my life. My standard reply to whatever kid is complaining about whatever kid is “Naturally…I love him most.” This always gets a laugh and makes the offended one forget about his problem, at least temporarily, while he professes his great outrage that I could/would/did say such a thing!

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