Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bob the Babysitter, Uncle Elmo, and Disney Daycare

I admit it. Despite my Masters in Education and Bachelors in Communication, in which I studied the effects of television on children, I let my toddler watch tv. Even though I'm aware of the attention deficit disorders that can result from little ones' exposure to the box, I've made no attempt to stop it. On top of that, I barely watch television because I can't stomach the commercialization and constant reinforcement of consumerism. But still, I've introduced television as a critical part of our days and nights.

There was a time I swore I wouldn't do this. I remember going to someone's house, where their 1 year old was in a high chair with dinner on her table, and stuck in front of the tv. "I will never!" I said adamently and packed up my box of Baby Einstein DVD's and refused to put them on for my infant. I remember watching my friend's daughter for an hour, totally immersed in Dora the entire time. "I will never!" I said, determined to read to my baby more. I remember dropping off my neice one night only to see her toddler brother up late watching a big screen. "I will never!"

But then came the time Lucas refused to eat, teething so bad that everything caused him pain. We found ourselves rolling his high chair in front of Thomas the Tank Engine, and slipping snacks onto his tray, where he would subconsciously shove them into his mouth to our great relief. And then came our move, where we had to leave him with family members all the time so we could pack and look at houses. He arrived with DVD in hand and they easily looked after him. And here we are now, at 9:30pm, Lucas immersed in Cars because he won't sleep early anymore.

So, I swallow my words, and now exclaim, I LOVE tv for toddlers. In the wee hours of the morning, when we're all stumbling around waiting for coffee to brew, making lunches, and negotiating for the bathroom, Lucas sits peacefully watching Elmo and the Count and nibbling on his cereal. At the end of the day, once PJ's are on, Lucas requests what he wants to watch before bed. We put on 15 minutes of his latest favourite (we're on day 47 of Wall-E at the moment) and bustle around finishing dinner dishes and getting his bed ready. On those days when he's sick or teething or just plain miserable, we let him zone out in front of Little People. So, yes, we unapologetically employ Bob the Babysitter, Uncle Elmo and Disney Daycare when we need to. The big bad box is part of our day and there's no turning back now.

So, I'll take a moment to appreciate the screen that has such a bad rap. TV helps us all decompress. Lucas can zone out for a few minutes and we can get a few minutes break. TV does teach despite the mixed research. Lucas can count to 17 at age 2 and The Count from Sesame Street is directly responsible because I never went past 10 with him. TV can illustrate instances that positively reinforce our own values. Isn't that nice how Thomas helped his friend when the bridge collapsed? TV provides contexts which help him understand how people relate. Muck was sad when Dizzy didn't share with him.

Last but not least, who can deny the joy of cuddling and sharing the experience of being entertained together? Lucas climbs onto my lap and lays back against my chest. I kiss his head and wrap my arms around him as we watch Wall-E court Eve. I put aside my fears of the impact of television, and just enjoy the moment.

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