We have been conducting a grand experiment at home. Actually, the test is about over.
Turns out, we had something in our home which was sucking the life out of our kids. The worst thing about it was its ability to stay out of view and gradually infect our kids without anyone really seeing it happening to the degree it was, least of all them. Well, that and the fact that it also had this addictive quality which made them crave it, despite its sapping their energy and leaving them with less than when they started. Less what? Less energy, less life, less enthusiasm, less creativity. (No, I'm not talking about sugar, but that would have been a great guess.)
When Christine and I finally decided we had to take action for their greater good, we were rewarded with the grandest gift of all: our bright, shiny children acting the way children should: happy, creative, crafters of games and spilling over with wonderment and the desire to play.
You may have already guessed what the "influence" was: television.
For years we have been telling ourselves that having a TV in our home was not that big a deal. And maybe for many parents it isn't. Indeed for us it had even become an extension of our own babysitting function--something in front of which we could place our children so we could continue managing the household, or wrapping up some work.
Over the years, the kids started placing themselves in front of the TV. That eventually degenerated into a situation where we started to take more notice: Aidan, our 2 yr old, began demanding as his first action of the day to "watch". He had developed a taste for all things TV, from The Wiggles to Star Wars. Sure, we'd screen it all so they would not see anything too racy, but Aidan's reaction was really beginning to concern us. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer. If we told him know, the morning was shot and he would become this reactive ball of "no!" with which no one could reason. It was really starting to look like an addiction.
During the last few times we did let him "watch", we'd also see him usually sitting there with a certain expression--a look on his face which wasn't otherwise there. If I had to sum it up in a couple of words, I'd say it looked like lifeless stupidity. Or, in a single word: hypnosis.
Christine and I had been talking about removing the TV from our home for some time now. It was the next logical step for us, since we had never had cable in our home from the day our first, Amber, was born, so the kids only watched DVDs of our choosing. "I'm not going to let those advertising madmen on Madison Avenue get into my kids' heads before I do..." has been a seven-year declaration my wife has probably become tired of hearing me repeat to friends and acquaintances.
But it was always a little hard to do when it was so confoundingly convenient--free a babysitter.
I don't know exactly why, but that device is hypnotic. Just try and get your kid's attention when they've been in front of it for a bit. You know what I'm talking about.
So recently, the general tone of our kids had been dropping the more time they spent with the TV. And the more we pulled them off of it, the more they wanted it. And how do you compete with something that provides an hour and a half of perfectly scripted, animated, surround-sounded, dialed-in-to-perfection entertainment that will move them through the full range of human emotion while they don't even have to lift a finger?
We finally realized the answer is: you don't. You kill it. Pull it out by the roots. Burn it, break it, exorcise it--heck, use voodoo if you have to. But get rid of it.
And get rid of it we did. It's sitting there like the junk that it is, waiting for me to pawn it off on some other poor soul(s) just to keep it out of the landfills.
What's more, the results with our children were immediate.
But I'll have to tell you about them in my next posting. I'm out of time. :) My plan is to do a little home reporting on this for a while as each day unfolds. So far it has been changing each day and so I should have a bit to work with for a while.