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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