You could say our TV was murdered by Barney, the big purple dinosaur with the unnervingly cheery voice. The one children seem to like in inverse proportion to how disturbing their parents find him.
This is what happened, Dear Reader. One day, about five years ago, a Barney video (the fat chunky kind — this was before DVDs) got stuck in the video slot of our small, crappy television. It seemed like a message from PBS (the public broadcasting system, for those who don’t live in the United States): if you want your three boys to become readers, let the television stay dead. Why PBS would want to say that, I have no idea. Maybe they’d been forced to watch too many episodes of Barney.
And so, we threw away the TV (we did pry the Barney tape out, in case we changed our minds). Mayhem did not ensue. This is what happened, in case you’re interested:
- Our boys were too young (6, 6 and 1) to effectively fight back. I’m not sure we could do this now when they are 11, 11, and almost 7. They’re starting to band together on issues. Local 1 of the Union of BlogLily Children is on the horizon. Their first demand will most likely have to do with media access.
- It wasn’t that a calm settled over our house. The words “calm” and “our house” cannot, in fact, be used in the same sentence, except maybe at 2:00 in the morning. But, in the absence of access to Dragon Tales and Arthur and video viewing, they read Magic Treehouse books, books they loved and which gave them a feeling of mastery as readers.
- They did complain. As they got older, and they realized this was a sort of weird thing we’d done, they complained a lot. We ignored them. The parent, harsh as it might sound, is the one with the bank account. Unless they were going to secretly go out and get a job, nobody was going to buy a television.
- Phase Two of the media wars: They saw that gameboys and other things of that ilk might be a good television replacement. Alas, Dear Reader, I hope you don’t think less of me to learn that I told them gameboys suck the life out of your brain and they weren’t coming into our house. Ever. It helped that their best friend wasn’t allowed them either. The result? A lot of whining and a lot of reading.
- Phase Three of the media wars. I love computers. Everyone in my family loves computers. (I’m betting their heads are nodding right now and they’re thinking, yes it’s true but Lily is so LAME with her computer. All she ever does is write. And you’d think when she figured out how to upload pictures that she was the first person on the face of the earth to use a digital camera. But I digress.) So yes, I let them play computer games. Computer games and our failure to control them, are actually a good illustration of why we had to get rid of the television in the first place. We are terrible at setting limits. At first, they played educational games. Their brains were getting sharper. They were solving puzzles with Fripples, hanging out with Liberty’s Kids, occasionally reaching the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Trail. They were spending a lot of time with someone named Carmen Miranda. (Yikes. A sharp-eyed BlogLily boy has just pointed out that her name is Carmen Sandiego and that I should know that because I bought them that game. Sorry.)
- Can you hear that hissing in the Garden of Eden? It’s . . . the sound of a sports game spinning around on the dvd drive. In a millisecond, sports games morphed into war reenactment games, games where you can fight full on battles for world domination. Again and again. They’ve fought every known conflict (and quite a few conflicts that haven’t even occurred) in our little breakfast nook. Multiple times. It gets really loud in there. I let it go, because after all, they are the weirdos without a television. (This is what they tell me anyway. I don’t think they’re weird at all. They’re handsome, smart, athletic, violent little boys. What’s not to like about that?)
- My favorite ploy for re-instituting television? One of my sons snapped at me, after the six millionth discussion about the lack of television, “You’re just doing this because all your friends think it’s so cool.” It was a brilliant moment of psychological insight. The trouble, though, is that my friends don’t actually think this is cool. They think this is crazy. And they know we do it in part because we find it difficult to set limits. If we were more like our friends, they who can set limits, we’d be watching Jon Stewart at night on a really large television while our children are asleep.
- We do watch movies. We watch them on a laptop, our family crowded around the little screen like ancient peoples huddled around a fire on a cold night. Every once in a while somebody yells at someone else to tilt the screen so they can see what’s going on.
So, that’s where we are five years in. Our six year old is just on the horizon of being a reader. He loves movies. He doesn’t care a lot about episodic television. The older boys are resigned to their fate. They know this is a family tradition. (My own parents didn’t really like television and periodically we didn’t have one. It wasn’t until the 6th grade that a television moved into our house for good. I watched a lot of Star Trek and I Dream of Genie. I loved our TV.)
One thing. Lately, we’ve been thinking about getting a huge big screen television and a king sized bed. We’d like to watch movies in a nicer venue. No cable though. Not until Local 1, BlogLily Children, figures out how to get the cable guy here on the sly.