Tackling The TV Obsession: Andrea Mara On Taking Away Her Children's Fix
Love/Hate. Not the drama series, but the term that best describes the relationship we have with TV in our house.
My kids love it. End of. There is nothing that matters more to them than TV. Last year a car crashed into the front of our house (all fine, except the house) and my eldest just kept saying, “At least it didn’t hit the TV.”
I love the peace and quiet it brings. The balm that soothes the house the instant it comes on. Time to make the dinner, or just have a cup of tea and breathe. Love.
My kids hate when I turn off TV. It’s like taking away the fix – going cold turkey, night after night. They never get used to it.
I hate how cranky they are when they have too much. I find in our house, 40 minutes works – two programs. If they have a third, it can go either way. More than that is trouble – bags of cats and weasels.
Mostly I resist letting them have too much, but sometimes it’s hard to make myself switch it off. The peace is just so very peaceful.
So we have rules. And I know lots of houses don’t need these rules – lots of houses can leave TV on and kids will happily play, ignoring the big flashing screen in the corner. But not my kids. If it’s on, they’re in. Regardless of what it is. They prefer cartoons, but not to the exclusion of sports, soaps, or the news. Once the screen is on, their eyes are drawn to it and soon glaze over.
So we have to have rules – TV in the evening only on weekdays, and a special dispensation for morning TV at the weekend. Two programs each evening, with a bit more at the weekend. And usually, it works pretty well.
Then came summer. My first summer at home with the kids. A gorgeous summer (no, not the weather) with parks and playgrounds and day trips and coffees, but also squabbles and sulks and complaints and chaos.
So some evenings, when it gets to “telly time” I’m begging them to sit down and watch it. Pressing them into the sitting room, desperate for that balmy calm that’s finally on its way. They’re happy, I’m happy. All the love.
And when I hear the credits roll after the second program, and dinner’s not fully ready and I haven’t finished reading the entire internet, my heart sinks a little. And I plan to get up and go in and turn off the TV, but my legs disobey my brain, and before you know it, I hear the opening credits of another episode. And I stay where I am and they stay where they are and nobody says a word. And 20 or 40 minutes later when I call them for dinner, we all play the game. We’re like characters in a spy movie. We all know what’s happened, but nobody says anything, so everything is just fine. It didn’t happen. And anyway, if they’ve been out paying in the fresh air all day, a little extra TV won’t hurt.
Except now of course, back to school is looming. And we’ll have to get strict again. I will no longer have the excuse that I spent all day chasing them and breaking up fights and I need the downtime. I can’t use the “they’ve been out in the air all day” justification. We have to get all serious again, with homework and earlier bedtimes. So the TV time will be reined in.
Then again, with dark evenings, they can’t play outside. And they’ll be tired after a long day of school and homework. We can probably justify an extra episode of My Little Pony every now and then. That peace is just so peaceful. Love.
Andrea Mara is a shoe-obsessed, coffee-loving mother of three from Dublin. When she’s not working or looking after the kids, Elissa, 7, Nia, 5 and Matthew, 3, she’s simultaneously making tomorrow’s school lunches, eating Toblerone and letting off steam on her blog.
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