Confession: I taught my toddler to set aside her books and watch TV.Bronwynn's morning to-do list is pretty simple. She wakes up, snuggles with Mama and Dada, hugs Ollie, has a diaper change, eats breakfast, and then wanders over to her bookshelf where she collects as many cardboard books as her chubby arms can hold and brings them over to me, demanding to sit in my lap and read each and every one. Repeatedly. For hours.
Seems like a child's love of words and reading would be any mother's dream (especially a mother who's a writer), but I found myself getting annoyed with her literary habit. Sitting there cross-legged on the floor, my legs getting numb, reading "Green Eggs And Ham" ad infinitum, I began to resent my child. I was held prisoner by her reading addiction, and couldn't even sneak away for a shower or cup of coffee, because she'd inevitably follow me whining, "More, Mama!" ("The Very Hungry Caterpillar" in her hand).
Desperate one day, I took the cellophane wrapper off the Baby Einstein DVD a friend had given me at my baby shower. At the time, in all my prenatal wisdom, I had shelved the gift, insisting self-righteously to Kris that our kids would not be babysat by the TV. I quoted the latest American Academy of Pediatrics studies that show a link between too much screen time and conditions like ADD and below-average IQs.
But those arguments waned in light of the fact I hadn't washed my hair or checked my email in days. So, out came "Baby Mozart." I piled a few pillows like a nest in front of the TV, plopped Bronwynn down in the middle, handed her a bowl of sliced bananas, pressed "play," and then sat back and dusted off my laptop, ready for 30 minutes of uninterrupted bliss.
She sat there enthralled for about 2 minutes, until the bananas were gone, and then was standing in front of me, waving another book in my face.
...So began my quest to find something, anything (correction: anything short of Barney) she would watch zombie-like for 30 minutes or more. We walked back and forth to the library and checked out various preschool DVDs. Each time I scanned a new title with my library card, I felt a pang of guilt. Why can't I just celebrate the fact that my kid dislikes television?
I'd rationalize: We're only watching this because it's snowing outside. Or because you're sick. Or, because I'm sick.
In the end, I found the right DVD (a peppy sign-language how-to flick), and some sanity. I also discovered that I'd been wrong to demonize television, that having 30 minutes of peace and quiet each morning actually makes me a more engaged, happier (and better-smelling) mom. What's more, my daughter learned a few things from TV that you can't from books--like how to sign for "bath" and sing her ABCs (though, when B sings her ABCs, it sounds like "B-C-B-C-C-C-B-D-C-D-C-B-B-C...").
The books still get plenty of attention--before naps, after naps, before bed... and in the mornings, after the TV is shut off.