Wednesday, March 27, 2013

That thing will rot your brain

Between my personal life as a parent in New York City and my professional life in children's retail, I have seen every type of parent: sweet, curt, warm, demeaning, generous, nasty, fun, and so on. My own capricious behavior means that I can get along with most of them... though there is truly no pleasing some people (*C.U. Next Tuesdays). Despite what I have seen, the most judgmental, condescending, b!tchy mom that I have to deal with on a regular basis is actually me.

I am my harshest critic; ever-present, ever-judging. My biggest problem is that I criticize myself for all the things I believe other people to judge. In case that didn't make sense (because it didn't) I will clarify: I don't tend to vilify myself for stuff that annoys me because I know it annoys me and I either get over it or stop doing it. But I am incredibly horrible to myself when it comes to things that other people may possibly despise. If I think someone can judge me poorly for something, I will usually beat them to the punch and judge myself accordingly. I use my perception of what other parents are critical of as a standard bar, not for the raising of my daughter, but for critiquing myself on the raising of my daughter. This has got to stop.

My example today is television, a fairly divisive issue for parents. I hate myself for letting my child watch tv, even though I don't really have a problem with it. I used to have the tv on in the background all the time. I could tune it out and sometimes I would pick up a tidbit of information, pop-culture or otherwise. Since becoming a mom, I have stopped the constant tv in the hope that my daughter would not become hooked. And yet in the morning when I need to shower or in the evening when I need to cook her dinner (both of which happen most, but by no means all days), I feel perfectly comfortable sitting her down in front of the tv with a snack or drink to watch while I get sh!t done. 

Now, some of you will say "so the F what" and some of you will say "that's terrible. A child under two shouldn't watch any tv, let alone know most of the characters and show names." The fact is, I say both. I have a love/hate relationship with tv. I hate that she loves it. I love that she learns from it. I hate that she gets so annoyed when I won't put it on. I love that I have something that can entertain her and calm her down when necessary. Mostly I hate that I feel like a sh!tty mom for giving in and letting her watch, when I don't really think I am a sh!tty mom. And I hate that I get so worked up about something I actually like. 

Yes, I like tv. I am actually a bit of a tv addict. I had a tv in my room from a very young age.  I cannot be communicated with while I am watching tv, much to the chagrin of my husband, mother, sister and a few dear friends that know this about me. I am also one of those people who can fall asleep with the tv on. So I can either be absorbed by it entirely or ignore it completely. 

My issue with television is the perceived horror that some people have when hearing that you let your kid watch it. I don't believe in no screen time before two... and in case that double negative was too confusing for you: I believe it is ok for a child under two to have time in front of a screen. Some people disagree. I hate feeling like I have to make excuses when I don't know how other people feel about it.

Why am I constantly reassuring myself that it is OK for her to watch a little? I keep beating myself up for letting my kid watch tv, when what I really need to beat myself up for is not getting over it. Why is it so hard to either accept that this is what I am doing and move on, or change it, if it bothers me so much?

For some reason I just can't get over it, the internal nagging continues. It is a good example of the Type A vs. Type B mommy battle that I mentioned in Mommy Blah-g.
Type A (Awesome mommy) reads to my daughter every day.
Type B (Bad mommy) lets her get in bed in the morning so I can snooze for an extra 10-15 minutes while she watches Sesame Street.
Type A only lets her watch educational shows.
Type B knows Peppa Pig isn't really educational. But she loves that G-ddamn Pig family so much! You tell her not to watch. I can't do it.

She also loves jumping in muddy puddles... serves me right
I do believe that she learns while watching tv. Naturally I think she's brilliant (*gratuitous parental gush) and I don't think it all comes down to what we teach her in our times of engaged one-on-one play. She does not watch violent shows, she watches shows that are created for children. And I believe/hope they are meant to be educational. However, I am having a tough time getting past this self-inflicted guilt. 

A few days ago my daughter started crying when I wouldn't put on one of her shows. In a moment of weakness I gave in because a) it was still pretty early in the evening, b) she had been cranky all day and c) I wasn't in the mood for tears. I instantly got annoyed with myself not only for giving in, but because a child her age (almost two) shouldn't need anything, aside from food and sleep, with such over-the-top dramatic passion. 

I had that in my head the next morning when I decided there would be no technology that day. All day I ignored requests for the tv, the iPad, my phone, I even denied her request to listen to music because it plays through the computer. We went for a walk, I took her to a class, we drew pictures, we did puzzles. And because I am not totally serious about our ability to avoid all technology, we played with all of her toys, including the ones that sing, buzz, play music and "act" like real phones or computers. And we had a lovely day. With technology in check I felt like a great mother and a really good person. Of course when she went down for a nap I was on my phone and the computer alternately for two hours straight. But moderation for her is a very good thing. I believe they call that "do as I say, not as I do"-style parenting. So, having conceived and executed the no-technology-for-her test, I can proudly state that I passed with flying colors. But as a lifestyle choice, we are still WAY off.

Somehow I need to reconcile my guilt for letting her watch tv because who am I kidding, I can't actually give it up entirely. That's just something I say after watching Real Housewives, or an equally mind-numbing show, for a few hours straight. I have no intention of actually following through on a technology ban for us all, so it's time to move on and let myself off the hook a bit. Seriously, I can be such a pain in the a$$ sometimes.


  1. I feel EXACTLY the same way as you. I use TV and feel sort of guilty when I do, but deep down I think it's totally fine. I think they say no TV under two for fear it will stunt certain areas of development, but my feeling is that when your kid is developing perfectly fine (which yours is...more than perfectly fine!) you don't have to take those guidelines so seriously. I also think that my kids' love of certain shows has taught them more than I personally have (like Super Why for letters and reading) which is a great thing, not a bad thing. So tell that annoying devil mom on your shoulder to shut up, sit down on the couch and watch some Pippa Pig so you can stay sane and get your sh!t done!

  2. I love tv, my kid loves tv. Suck it voices in my head!

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