I have a secret and I know I’m not alone. I love TV.
It’s not particularly PC and definitely not cultured to admit it, but I’m smitten. What’s even worse is my penchant for reality shows. After a long day of work and wrangling kids there’s nothing better than donning sweats and taking a front row seat to the twisted, bald-faced cray cray of humanity. From “Sister Wives” and “Catfish” to “Dance Moms,” “19 Kids and Counting” (who isn’t weirdly obsessed with the Duggars?), “Long Island Medium,” and the earliest episodes of “Jon and Kate Plus 8” – I loved them all.
Yet despite this love, and ability to access seemingly endless channels, most nights my husband and I found ourselves saying, “There’s nothing on!” Shows like “Sex Sent Me to the ER” and “My Strange Addiction” drew us in and we realized that despite being freakishly fascinating we had really hit rock bottom.
We were officially staring down the slippery slope of voyeuristic mindlessness to a degree that begged us to ask a few questions: “Why were we paying so much for this?” “Would we want our kids watching this?” (um NO!) and “Should we be watching this?” (another NO).
To be honest, we weren’t a big TV family at all aside from our brief but nightly reality TV gorgefest once the kids were in bed.
We were genuinely concerned about our four boys, who range in age from three to 14, and what they were being fed via the boob tube when they did watch. Our older boys would sometimes watch the Disney Channel, which seemed innocent enough until I actually paid closer attention.
Just listen to one tween/teen Disney show from another room. It’s an eye-opener. Rude, bratty kids talking back to parents, and adults portrayed as bumbling, disrespected idiots. It was all sorts of wrong.
Our Family Cut the Cord
My husband and I had talked a hundred times about cutting the ever-so-addictive cable cord but something kept preventing us. With four kids and a busy life, by the time everyone was in bed our nightly TV date was a much needed break for the weary parent mind. Admit it, who can resist a little bit of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” to put what you thought might be a bad parenting day in perspective? Just like a car crash, you don’t want to look but you just can’t stop. We are also news and political junkies and the mere idea of not being able to flip on CNN when something newsworthy was happening almost sent me into the shakes. It all came down to fear of the unknown, fear of giving up the addiction.
My husband and I talked and talked and figured we could always get it back if we really missed it, so we ended it cold turkey. That was almost three years ago and we were blown away by what happened. We didn’t miss it AT ALL. Yup, I’m stunned to admit it. And the even bigger shocker was that my kids didn’t miss it either. Our kids were far more adaptable than I gave them credit for. They just moved on to the next thing. The shows they watched were just fillers of time and a way to decompress after a long day at school. Kind of like it was for my husband and me.
We bought an antenna and were actually pleased and surprised at the channels we did get over the good old-fashioned airwaves; some oldies stations that aired classics like “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Brady Bunch,” as well as multiple PBS stations, and more. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad.
We were on a parental roll.
In addition to cutting cable, we imposed a school week TV and technology ban on the kids. Our three older boys had developed what I would consider a significant addiction to playing Minecraft. The minute they rushed through the door after school they needed their fix. Their coats were barely off before their faces were basking in the blueish glow of technology. We also noticed that their technology use resulted in horrible behaviors, bickering and a general orneriness.
What prompted the ban is a long story but it involved me, a big shopping bag, and anything considered “technical” thrown inside then buried in my closet. I think my “Mommie Dearest” “No… wire…hangers!” moment scared them, but they needed me to intervene.
My then 9-year-old was the most Minecraft-obsessed so I fully expected to find him in the fetal position on the floor, but nope. A few days into the ban he said, “I actually don’t mind this.” Granted these are kids who do spend a lot of their free time outdoors rollerblading, playing street hockey, making forts, riding bikes, and scootering.
We have slowly allowed some time in front of the TV but that is still pretty limited. When they do play video games on the weekends, within 10 minutes the bad behaviors, fights, and bickering start right up again. Confirmation that we made the right decision. Hubs and I still have our nightly TV date but are watching documentaries and more quality programs. Of course I’ll fully admit that “The Bachelor” creeps into the lineup, but a mom deserves a few indulgences, don’t you think?