Toddler Tuesday: TV can be Useful

Posted on November 30th, 2010

Toddler Tuesday, where I relive Junior as a little kid. When life was easier, the tantrums were just for show and he wasn’t too big to sit in the time-out chair.

I’m not much of a TV person.

If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, consider this: I come from a family of admitted TV-aholics. My parents have TVs everywhere. In the family room, their bedroom, the guest bedrooms, and outside on the patio. God forbid my Dad should have to relax in the hot tub without being able to watch the O’Reilly Factor.

But I was the black sheep of my TV-watching family. I once went two years without turning on my TV. Nobody in my family had ever gone more than two minutes without watching television before. So when Junior came along, I made a rule that my child would not rot his brain watching TV.

That rule lasted five minutes.

As any mother knows, you have to shower sometime. And it’s best if your child is mesmerized by something while you do so. Otherwise, kids all over America will be escaping from their homes, getting into your drawers and dragging your underwear all over the neighborhood—even the big, old grandma panties with ripped seams that you think nobody but your husband will ever see.

And that’s why Barney joined our little family. The purple dinosaur was such a hit with Junior that he hummed the theme song before he could even speak. At 9:30 every morning, I plopped Junior and his juice cup in front of the TV, tuned it to “Barney” and ran for the shower.

Because Junior loved Barney so much, my mom and dad bought him an interactive Barney for Christmas one year. I hated that toy. For one thing, it would never shut up. You’d walk past it, accidentally bump it and suddenly “I love you, you love me” would fill the air. Junior loved that toy, of course. He sang with it and played games like covering up Barney’s eyes to play peek-a-boo. I wanted to cover Barney’s eyes all right. But in a landfill.

I even suffered through a live stage version of Barney. Would you like to see the ultimate torture? Go to a live kiddy show. See five million screaming, crying toddlers eating junk food and watching a giant purple dinosaur sing. Then try to get your child to the bathroom and back before intermission ends.

That’s the problem with kid’s TV. It comes with too many accessories. One TV show can spawn about four thousand toys, a live show, trading cards, a couple million mind-numbing videos and several movies. You think you are only turning on the TV for a second to let your child watch Barney, but in reality you are opening your wallet to Barney and all the shows that will follow.

And now they have entire channels available for kids—just to suck up what’s left of your discretionary income. In the good old days, when I was young and covered wagons roamed the earth, there were only three channels. And those were stations that only came in sort of clear if the planets were in perfect alignment and nobody disturbed the tin foil on the rabbit ears. And we only had cartoons on Saturday mornings.

But not anymore. Thanks to cable and satellite and millions of mothers who need showers, we have cartoons 24/7. And it’s not just Barney. No, once your child outgrows Barney (which does happen, I promise), they move on to “Rugrats”. Or “Hey Arnold”. And even the dreaded “Pokemon” and “Dragon Ball Z”.

Now I kept Junior isolated from “Pokemon” for as long as I could. But even before he’d ever seen the show, he wanted the trading cards and the toys. Each time Harry went to Asia, he had to bring back a suitcase full of Pokemon junk to satisfy Junior’s cravings.

And then along came “Sponge Bob Square Pants.” And Harry liked it. So he and Junior would watch. And watch. And watch. I dreaded “Sponge Bob” marathons. They would sit like two little couch potatoes, Big Spud and Little Spud, watching a sponge and a starfish chase a squirrel in diving gear.

So what’s a mom to do? Judging by Harry, it seems that the cartoon addiction never ends, it just stays dormant until your son is old enough to appreciate the finer cartoons. On the bright side, “Sponge Bob” is on every morning. So I can take a shower in peace, knowing my underwear  is safe.

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