I have had a tumultuous experience with television in recent years, from outright saying that we would ban it, to applauding its ability to be absolutely amazing. Whenever I wear my badge of honour regarding “I don’t watch TV” it usually is met with one of three responses:
- Come on, you must watch some TV, right?
- What have you done with your TV then?
- Ah, so you watch Netflix, well that still counts doesn’t it?
The answer to 1) is that we don’t watch live TV. Ever since I moved to Texas Connie and I have barely watched anything at the scheduled time it was due on at for reasons I’ve outlined before on here, but are worth repeating – I hate adverts, I want to watch more than one episode in a row (binge watching) and timetabling my TV watching is pointless for me. Number 2) is answered with “We’ve moved it to our bedroom” and 3) is followed by “Well, that’s not quite true is it. Netflix isn’t watching TV in the same way that watching a DVD boxset isn’t watching TV”, but it’s the most valid point. It is less valid now the TV is rarely used for watching Netflix on, now it’s in the bedroom.
There is one thing that the bedroom TV is used for – that’s Joni. We made a conscious decision early on to limit her TV viewing, partly because we’ve seen so many other people rely on it. This isn’t me judging them, because as a parent I know that whatever works just works, and if TV is what works for you then that’s what works. We originally set out with the best of intentions on everything, and slowly have had to morph into parents that are a comprise of our ideal position and the other extreme, so Joni has mostly organic food, mostly made by us from scratch, and mostly watches zero TV.
Until it’s bedtime. Bedtime routines are the most important moment in a child’s early life because they breed relaxation once a routine is set up. If you have one that works the moment you realise that you might have to mess with it is terrifying. A good example is when we had to start applying creams to Joni for her skin and that messed up everything with regards to our routine. There are parts of our routine that have evolved (what Connie and I do and our roles have evolved over time) and Joni has adapted well to these changes. We removed her soother/dummy a few months ago to great results (especially considering why we introduced it in the first place, to help her sleep) and the move from one story to three a night has been welcomed by everyone bar myself, not because I don’t like reading to her (by god, it’s the best actually) but that we quite quickly have run out of books that have any semblance of novelty.
TV was introduced by accident, I think, because it used to be in our front room. Octonauts, one of Joni’s first real loves on TV, was on and the TV left on whilst we had dinner. We retreated back to the front room around 6.25pm for the start of In the Night Garden and it was then a part of the night time routine. Once we moved the TV up stairs as a method of curtailing Connie and I’s own use of it we found the show on Amazon Video or BBC iPlayer and that’s been the routine since. Head upstairs, gather on the big bed, watch an episode of the show (with singing, dancing, and comments on plot holes from myself and Con) and then a bath, a naked run around up stairs, and then three stories. The whole thing lasts about an hour or so, from start to finish, meaning that bedtime starts around 6.30pm and is done and dusted by 7.45pm normally.
There are only a few shows that she actually enjoys – In the Night Garden being one, which has led her to drawing a circle on her open palm whenever she is tired and wants to nap. The other is the Twirlywoos, a wonderful live action and stop motion mixture thing that is fun.
This will inevitably not last. Television is something that can be very beneficial, and we’ve already watched a few movies “together”, what with her having a child’s attention span. Over time she will want to watch certain things, and maybe as we evolve our relationship and she grows our need for television will diminish or, more likely, increase. But for now, sharing a night time show with her on our bed, snuggled in, as she dances away and twirls, have been some of the most fun moments we’ve had as a team.