Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.
As the progeny of a counter-cultural mama who always hated pink as a child, my daughter Leah is remarkably similar to the average 3-year-old girl in our culture: she owns and loves about a zillion Disney princess items (courtesy of doting grandparents), from her comforter to T-shirts to the cup in the bathroom.
The major difference? She’s never seen their movies.
The closest she’s come to princesses outside a storybook is Disney on Ice, and even her 200-page princess stories book is sitting on our master closet shelf after one too many tales that were not age appropriate and just doggone uncomfortable to read to a 3-year-old who doesn’t understand what’s going on anyway.
Grandma got her some new princess gear for Easter and asked, “What’s this princess’s name?”
Leah answered honestly and casually, “I don’t know…I only know Cindah-wewa.” (We’re still working on “L” and “R” sounds.)
Do I care that she can’t peg Aurora, the name of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty?
Do you care that I had to Google that to figure it out?
I actually take great pride that she doesn’t. Besides the fact that none of these movies are made for a 3-year-old mentality and she’d barely know what was going on, there are so many things I’d rather my daughter fill her expanding mind with: from how to identify beginning sounds to using “please” consistently, from drawing squares with actual corners to saying her “R” sound correctly. If she can remember the names of all her friends in real life and how to play fair with them, Sleeping Beauty can never wake up for all I care.
Are my kids the only ones who don’t watch TV?
Photo by espensorvik
Sometimes I reflect in awe about how removed from the popular culture my family is, including the kiddos. They can talk like this: “I was like, dude, you are kidding me!” but they don’t have a clue who Phineas and Ferb are, what Nick Jr. is, or even how microwave popcorn works. (And, yes, I did go to the Disney Channel website to figure out what names they don’t know…)
With television, as with food, I try to go with the, “What they don’t know can’t annoy them” rule, meaning that if the kids don’t know certain shows exist, I’m not a mean mom if I don’t let them watch. I limit their exposure as much as I can, difficult in a world of licensed characters around every bed.
We allow an hour of “screen time” per day, which includes television, computer games, and video games like Wii. Most days, not a minute of the hour is touched. I’m guessing my kids don’t even realize that Saturday morning TV is populated with cartoons for 8 hours straight, all aimed at their demographic.
They also don’t really understand TV in real time or commercials that can’t be skipped, anyway, with the advent of the DVR. As my oldest gets further into elementary school, though, I’ll start to lose control as the kids spend more time without me, playing at friends’ houses.
Boys vs. Girls: A double standard?
I was really pleased when we moved to a new neighborhood and a neighbor told me that “the boys in the neighborhood aren’t the type to hole up and play video games; they’re always outside playing sports and super active.” It’s a great fit for my son Paul, who will hang in there playing hockey with the big boys and love it. (He might also be the catalyst for a neighborhood-wide bug-catching challenge; time will tell.)
Imagine my surprise when this same father invited Leah in to play and assured me that she and his daughter “always just watch TV or play kitchen or whatever.”
What? Watch TV?
We, the weird family, have this crazy rule that we don’t watch TV when guests are over since it’s not a social thing. Besides that, there are a lot of shows we don’t allow our children to watch (see above).
I had two internal dilemmas as I walked home:
- How do I bring up the fact that I’d rather Leah not watch TV at all on an hour-long playdate?
- Why is it okay that the girls watch television as the norm but negative for the boys?
I’m sure television viewing is far from the only subject in which I’ll notice a disparity between genders as my kids grow up (see princesses, above), but it certainly came as a surprise. I hope the culture will forgive my daughter her ignorance of cartoon characters as much as I hope it will accept the fact that she nurses her baby dolls and thinks waitressing would be a great job when she grows up.
Is avoiding television a “green” thing to do?
It seems that it’s more likely the naturally-minded, crunchy sort of mamas whose kids have similar TV restrictions as mine, so I’m trying to figure out if watching very little TV is related to the subject of being “green.” It’s not particularly eco-friendly, other than saving a minute amount of energy when the television is off.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if we want to raise up children who are outdoorsy, who appreciate nature, and who are connected to the earth, we need to teach them to be the type to dig potatoes rather than become a couch potato…regardless of whether they’re girls or boys.
Let’s turn off the TV as much as possible this month and encourage kid-directed play, preferably in the dirt. Maybe there is a reason after all why “Screen Free Week” and Earth Day hit the same month.
What’s your strategy for limiting screen time?