Raising my Kid on 6 hours of TV a Day

by Annie Valentine
Originally Published: 
A child sitting and watching TV

Moving to a new city is hard. Starting work from home with three kids in school and one left behind is harder. Hunting for other lonely four-year-olds is a headache that makes you wonder if you should have had a fifth kid simply to keep this one company. It’s such an ugly cycle.

I used to be a good mother. I would plan play groups and coordinate my boys’ outfits on a daily basis. We used to have bath toys that actually belonged in the tub and a real bath time routine. Our days were filled with public library trips and Heaven forbid I mention all the homemade play dough and jello finger painting. I pretty much killed myself off trying to fit 18 years of parenting into the first four.

But the biggest part of my parenting methodology was to make sure that under absolutely no circumstances would my children ever be allowed to watch more than the medically approved two hours of television a day (except on really tough days when they watched three hours—it probably happened twice).

And there was none of that irreverent sludge like Sponge Bob or the ever violent reruns of Power Rangers, and don’t get me started on Sesame Street. We all know it’s responsible for the outbreak of ADD and Autism. My children watched a strategically chosen selection of Barney, Baby Einstein and the occasional full-length Disney movie…if it was raining.

In between story time at the public library and pre-planned playdates I learned the number one rule of parenting the hard way: Pace yourself.

Fast forward ten years, and I am finally home alone with my fourth and final child who is one year away from that beautiful institution we like to call Public School. I’d like to tell you that she attends playdates and outings to the zoo, but frankly, I’m too old and too tired and far too lazy to search out young, energetic mothers who still bathe their children everyday.

What do you do with the last kid? Well let me tell you, you let them watch whatever they want on television and ply them with crayons and cardboard boxes so they will leave you alone and let you work. Sprinkle a few Cheerios on the ground, leave the water trickling so she can climb up and fill her cup, turn on Baby Bratz and bam–four hours of work done with very little whining from the gallery. Thanks to my smartphone, I don’t even have to leave my desk in order to move her onto the next feature presentation.

Sure, we try to watch things like Super Why and Daniel Tiger to ensure she’s learning letters and civility, but she’s lonely and six hours a week of preschool does not a full schedule make.

So I’m done with feeling guilty. Somehow through the miracle of osmosis she’s learned to write some of her letters and most of her numbers and is teaching herself to tie shoes. Quite frankly, limiting my second child to two hours of television didn’t save him from Autism, so I’m not too worried about her brain turning to mush.

Sometimes as mothers we have to do what we have to do. When I was four years old, I went to my father’s real estate office five days a week because my mom had to go back to work. There were no iPads or DVD’s, just me and a bunch of old filing cabinets in the back room with a broken safe to play in. Worst year of my life until my father purchased one of those new “VCR’s” and one lonely video that I watched over and over and over. It kind of changed my world. I can still recite every line from Charlotte’s Web to this day.

I’m done berating myself for the fact that this last little baby has to spend a year at home without a sister to play with. I can’t be her playmate and I hate the pressure that says I should get down on the floor and play learning games with her all day long. My Lake Learning years are so over.

If she wants me to babysit her dolls during their nap time, no problem. Otherwise, let’s see if we can learn a little Spanish from Dora today, shall we?

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