Making the Most of TV Time — by Jamie
I guess I’m lucky that I don’t have a TV-obsessed kid. When Jayda was a baby, I tried to park her in front of those highly-touted Baby Einstein DVDs that everyone else’s kids seemed to love, but she just cried and cried and cried. When those same DVDs were recalled last year, it made me laugh; Jayda was clearly smarter than the rest of us.
These days, Jayda does like to watch a bit of TV now and then, but she’s rarely riveted by it. I still can’t get her to sit still and watch a Disney movie; she’s only interested in short bits of television—like ten-minute episodes of “Max and Ruby” or “Arthur,” for instance. And after watching a few of them, back to back, she’ll generally announce, “I want to play!” and will turn off the television, and beckon me to be her playmate. Most adults I know use television as a temporary babysitter for their kids; this marvelous invention allows many of my mommy-friends to cook dinner, do laundry, or accomplish any chores they need to get done, without having to “be there” for their children. I just wish that was the case in my house. When Jayda watches TV, she only wants to do it while sitting on my lap. And she wants me to be as engaged in the program as she is…which is highly unlikely since, unlike my three-year-old, I do not enjoy watching the same episodes of a show over and over and over again.
If I’m going to “be” with my daughter, I’d rather be coloring with her, doing a puzzle, or joining her in a myriad of other kid-friendly activities; I certainly don’t want our quality time together to be TV-watching—especially when there are a hundred other things I’m thinking about doing. So I was thrilled when we finally reached a compromise: Jayda can sit on my lap to watch her dose of TV, but I am allowed to have a text book resting on the table next to us so that I can do some studying. It’s become such a ritual for us that now Jayda automatically blurts out, “Mommy—I want to watch TV now. And I want to sit in your lap. You can read your big book.”
On Thursday, my summer class ended, and I suddenly found myself text book-free for the first time since February. Unfortunately, I still loathe the idea of sitting in front of the TV to watch something I’m completely disinterested in—even if I do have an adorable preschooler sitting on my lap. So, one night, I told Jayda I needed to make a phone call while she watched “Strawberry Shortcake.” She refused to get off of my lap, and also kept interrupting me with cries of “I want to say ‘hi’ to your friend!” throughout the entire call. It wasn’t a very satisfying conversation for me, and I won’t try that again. Another night, I flipped through an Entertainment Weekly magazine during a “Backyardigans” episode—but couldn’t really enjoy it; it felt too indulgent, and like such a waste of my time. I’m an inherent multi-tasker, and reading for pleasure—especially pure fluff—is something I haven’t enjoyed in years. Another night, I closed my eyes and just tried to “rest,” while I obsessed about a list of things I needed to accomplish after Jayda went to bed—but that didn’t work for my observant daughter, who soon bellowed in my ear, “Mommy—it’s not bedtime yet. Wake up! Watch ‘Arthur’ with me!”
I suppose I could pull out some “tough love” tactics and just tell Jayda that my lap is unavailable, but when I think about the years ahead—when I’ll have a surly tween or teen who can’t stand to cuddle with me—I can’t help but feel that I should take every chance I can get to show my kid how much I love being near her. And I really do. Just not when a “Max and Ruby” episode is on for the fourteenth time…