The other day started out like any other. I woke up to the sound of my daughter cooing “dadadadada” over the baby monitor. I went into her room, where she was cruising along the sides of her crib. I picked her up, changed her diaper, nursed her, and we made our way downstairs, careful not to wake my husband or dog. I started the coffee, made my oatmeal, and put my daughter in her high chair with some cheerios, so I could eat my breakfast without having to worry about spilling hot coffee on my baby. Then, I turned on the TV. Normally, I turn on the Today Show in the morning, but this particular day, the TV was tuned to A&E, and a particularly riveting episode of Dog the Bounty Hunter was on. I didn’t change the channel. I sat and watched, half awake, waiting for the caffeine to take affect. Obviously, Rose was watching too, because one moment Dog the Bounty Hunter’s wife was pounding on a cement wall, taunting the suspect in a mocking tone; “I’m not on your property. I’m not on your property,” over and over and over. And then, the same scene played itself out in my living room. My eight-month old daughter began banging on her high chair, and in a high-pitched, mocking tone, making the same racket as the big-breasted, blonde woman on TV. I laughed, and told my husband. I even posted it on Facebook, adding that perhaps I should consider turning the television off when Rose was awake. But, I didn’t really mean it. And then, I did. Mean it, that is.
I grew up without TV. Oh, you too? No, seriously, I really grew up without TV. Maybe you weren’t aloud to watch TV during the week, or only for an hour a day, or some other rule imposed by your very media conscious parents. But, that is child’s play compared to what my siblings and I had. The only TV in our house when I was growing up was an old television, always a different set it seemed, and always a relic of a time long passed. And, we were not allowed to watch that old television. Oh, no. And, even if we wanted to, it was put in the coldest room in our house in the cold and snowy mountain town we grew up in; a room we lovingly and fittingly dubbed the “Cold Room.” Nobody would want to watch anything in that freezing room, where the heat was rarely turned on, and which regularly was below freezing (I’m just guessing, I really have no clue). One of our family friends frequently stayed in that icy tundra. He slept fully clothed, in a down sleeping bag, the only part of his body that showed through was his nose; just enough to allow him to breathe in that icy air. But, I digress. The point is, if we had been allowed to watch TV, we would have been banished to the Cold Room, where, as we were watching TV, we would have been taunted by the wall of books. In that cold room, my parents covered a wall entirely with a built-in bookshelf. So, as children, often, our only ventures into the cold room were to race across the room to grab a book or two off the shelves. I often (in my head) referred to it as the library, and told myself that one day I would have my own library in a room that was warm enough to sit and read among my books. To me, my own library seemed like the epitome of luxury. I suppose some children dream of a home theater I dreamt of my own cozy library, walls lined with books, and a fire always burning in the fireplace. My point is, I grew up without television, and as a result, I adore reading. I get lost in books the way I see so many get lost in movies and TV shows. Today, I love me some TV. Love it. Honestly though? I get bored with it. I always end up on the computer, or distracted by housework, or yakking away to (and, I’m sure driving crazy) the person I’m watching TV with. And, often, I find myself thinking that really, reading a book would be much better.
In case you were doubting how serious my parents were about their television ban, this is a bumper sticker they had our white VW van. They were not kidding.
After our Dog the Bounty Hunter episode, I realized that I want a child who will spend her life with her nose stuck in a book. I want children that act out parts of stories, not the cartoons or insanely mind-numbing Disney shows that kids adore so. I want my daughter to look up to children in books. I want her to idolize Anne of Green Gables or Laura Ingalls Wilder (don’t you? I sure do), but not some eight-year old dressed like a trampy teenager on some Nickelodeon show. I want her to look forward to weekly library trips, or storytime at the bookstore. I want her to love the outdoors. Or, at least, if she’s anything like me, be happy to get inside, so she can play with dolls, build forts, read, and play pretend. It’s not hard for me to see how to accomplish this. When she’s awake, the TV is off. There is, however, one exception, everyday, and that is, that it will be on in the morning. It just seems to work best for the whole family. I can get my “news” from the Today Show. My husband can get his news from ESPN. But, we’re going to be mindful. Mindful of what we watch, and what it says to our daughter. Mindful of the fact that, even at eight months old, my little daughter’s mind is insanely impressionable. So far, it’s worked well. And, as much as I might like to do away with the morning TV, and maybe someday we might, I do love watching my husband cuddle with my daughter, while they watch ESPN or CBS cartoons before he leaves for work. Oh, and by the way, we’re still aloud to watch TV at night, just like my parents were ‘aloud’ to once us kids were tucked into bed at night (although, we do so in a perfectly warm and cozy room).