Just read this interesting post from Shannon from Rocks In My Dryer. It's about a Reuters report that lays out what should probably be common sense -- living in a home with constant background noise from a TV is bad for kids of all ages.
The article starts out with the well-known recommendation that children under the age of two shouldn't watch any kind of TV -- they call it "screen media" -- at all.
Whoops. Another strike against my mothering skills!
Actually, I very much understand and agree that TV is not for babies. I very much want to hold to my desire to not let Luke watch TV until he's three. And then only the History channel, PBS and the Muppets (wait... are the Muppets still around? Probably not, but there is really nothing funnier than the Swedish chef. Am I right?) I have great intentions. But... well... already, I've slipped here. For his first two months at home, as I sat nursing and nursing and nursing him on the couch, I would keep the TV on to pass the time. Let's just say I became very very familiar with TLC's schedule. Even if I was reading the paper or talking to my husband or chatting on the phone, the TV was usually on. One day, I noticed Luke gazing in that direction. He seemed to be actually watching What Not to Wear right along with me. I thought it was sort of funny and then turned him away so he couldn't keep rotting his brain. But it kept happening... As I would watch Jon and Kate Plus Eight, I'd catch Luke doing the same. As Nanny 911 came on, Luke would glance over at the TV with me.
Since I knew he had figured out what the TV was, in a sense, I decided I might as well play him something educationamal. So I slipped in his Baby Einstein DVD, something I got at a shower that I really wasn't interested in, hence my aforementioned no-TV-intentions. His reaction to the DVD cracked me up. He sat riveted, absolutely riveted, as toys flashed on the screen, all to soundtrack of Mozart. It was like crack for babies. He was hooked, and I was entertained as well, trying to figure out how these Baby Einstein people had taken such a simple thing -- basic shots of colorful toys and babyfied classical music -- and built an empire. Entrepreneurial genius!
Once I had broken my no-TV vow, it didn't seem so bad to turn on PBS and let Luke watch Curious George one day. Then yesterday when he seemed bored, I flipped to some cartoon, and he pretty much flipped his lid. He squealed and shook his arms and bounced in my lap and went a little nutso. The storyline had something to do with a little girl who made a promise to plug up a hole in a giant vat of grape soda that threatened to overflow and soak a town inhabited by all sorts of odd, alienish creatures. She, and several others, failed to keep their promises and at the end, they all learned a good lesson -- if you can't keep your promises, you shouldn't make them. I'm not sure Luke really caught that little moral lesson or whether he was simply intrigued by the flashing colors and cartoon sound effects. But he was sure entertained. I, on the other hand, was simultaneously relieved and self-critical. On one hand, I had figured out a way to entertain a baby who shuns napping. On the other, I realized I'd already totally broken my own promise to myself and become the sort of parent I had previously scorned.
Case in point: When we were in the hospital after his surgery, for six days we had to share a room with another baby and his parents. Each side of our rooms had TVs hooked the wall. Sometimes throughout the afternoon, we'd turn ours on, but it mostly stayed off. There was too much else going on, people always coming and going, nurses, doctors, visitors, it never ended. A TV would only add to the chaos. And besides, I'd think to myself, this isn't really the time to catch up on All My Children. Pretty self-righteous, considering on the other side of the room, the TV NEVER turned off. Those parents literally kept it on the entire time we were there -- day and night. It drove me nuts as I tried to sleep on the terrible little couch as their TV cast a light over on my side of the room. I'd lay stewing under the pillow I'd shoved over my head and wonder what kind of parents they were to keep a TV on like that all day and night. In the HOSPITAL.
Pretty smug, wasn't I?
And the funniest part about it? The station they kept it on all day and night? TLC.
So yeah, I've fallen into the same habit as a majority of parents in this TV-obsessed country. And it is already rubbing off on my baby even though he is just three-months old. He's already glancing the TV's way when we are in that room, even if it isn't on. In the last few weeks, I have made a point to keep it off during most of the day. The quietness of the house is so much more conducive to just about everything -- thinking, reading, paying close enough attention to my son that I don't miss the little things. Praying. Talking on the phone. Cleaning. My mind is so much more productive without the constant hum of Take Home Chef. But I think a certain degree of damage is already done. Because Luke has realized not just what the TV is... but that his mommy is a fan, just like him. And old habits die hard. My first inclination when I sit on my couch with my son is almost always to reach for that remote.