Child meet TV. TV meet child.
For more than a year and a half, we’ve shielded our son from the giant flat screen TV sitting in our living room, taking up far too much space.
Then, one day, I heard British accents spilling from our living room into our kitchen where I was preparing dinner.
I soon learned that those voices belonged to Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which my husband found on YouTube, and this became the first show our son ever watched.
Perhaps it is because we live in the land before time—aka the pre-cable Dark Ages—that I’d never heard of the show; however, I now know the chirpy theme music by heart and all about the endless squabbles that go on between the trains, nattering away like old married couples.
As you can imagine, our child watched with his mouth agape, transfixed on the moving images before him. He barely blinked and only paused to call out the occasional enthusiastic "choo choo!" while pointing his tiny finger at the screen. He was delighted, giddy, and very impressed by this new discovery.
He triumphantly calls out the letters of the alphabet, proudly names colours, and roars with the lions, tigers, and bears. We talk about what we’re seeing, and teach him new words as they arise. He giggles when he finds something funny, and busts out his dance moves when music begins playing.
At first, I felt sick about our sweet innocent child being subjected to the brain rot that would surely come from television.
After all, we’ve all been warned about the effects of TV on impressionable growing minds, and most of us are aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises no television before the age of two.
That advice, however, doesn’t often fly.
According to a survey cited by HealthyChildren.org, 40 per cent of infants have watched some sort of video by five months of age, and by the age of two that number jumps to 90 per cent.
So why is TV so bad?
According to the website, “It takes two full years for a baby’s brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world.”
Meanwhile, other concerns include delayed language and reading ability, insufficient learning through interaction and play, as well as the development of poor short-term memory.
Basically, it is considered junk food for the brain.
Yet, with the exception of one or two friends, most of the parents I know have introduced their children to some form of screen time, allowing mom or dad a few minutes to scoot to the bathroom, make a quick phone call, or prepare a meal.
Time Magazine ran an informative article in 2009 asking, TV for Babies: Does it Help or Hurt? exploring all sides of the issue. It is well worth a read.
So, why have we caved?
Well, in truth, he only catches a few minutes here or there. It is a rather small and insignificant snippet in a day otherwise filled with activities, laughter and fun, and more hugs, cuddles, and kisses than I could ever keep track of.
As quickly as his enthusiasm ignites when he see his potato pals, his attention dissipates and we return to kicking a ball around, playing chase, building towers, working on Play-Doh creations, colouring, and snuggling up together to read books.
He is an active boy, and we are actively involved with him. As is the case with anything along the parenting journey, it’s about knowing your child, understanding limitations, and observing what they are ready to handle.
I don’t believe excessive television is beneficial for anybody (adults and children alike), or that it should trump the important role of parenting or be used as a babysitting tool.
Most things—even good and healthy things—are best in small doses.
With that in mind, I am often surprised by how educational some of the available offerings are, to the point where I no longer vehemently object to the occasional Raa Raa of a lion or choo-choo of a train. Our son also recently tried cake for the first time, so maybe we're on a roll. Yep, we're rebels.
How about you? What are your feelings when it comes to television and children?
Want to read more about the trials and tribulations of motherhood? You might enjoy these posts: Six Things that Surprised Me Most About Motherhood and Motherhood Changes the Core of Who You Are.
The question is this: Is Facebook the life we wish we had — complete with photographs perfected in Photoshop, carefully edited status updates and absent of blisters and blunders — or the life we really have?
Well, that all depends on what you read. According to some, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is responsible for everything from making us depressed and stirring feelings of disconnect to instilling within us deep pressure to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’
Some studies have shown that social media connections ultimately make us feel less connected. Apparently our friends are fake and the intimacy we’re engaging in is a ruse.
Meanwhile a study released last year by the University of Michigan testing the happiness and life satisfaction levels of 82 participants during a two-week span found that the more a person used Facebook, the more their feelings of happiness declined.
Facilitators of the study suggested that our newsfeeds might be partly to blame, what with a daily stream of blissful updates, cheery snapshots and happy-face emoticons coming at us. God, would you look at those beaming people ruining everyone else’s day by flaunting big toothy smiles! Selfish, selfish, Selfish.
Perhaps I am alone on this one, but if hearing about the celebrations and success stories of others bums us out, doesn’t that say more about us than it does the offender?
Shouldn’t we want our friends to be happy? And if not, shouldn’t we be asking why not?
I began thinking about Facebook recently after two occurrences: the first being an article I came across that suggested our lives, as revealed on Facebook, along with our virtual friends, are not an accurate reflection of reality, and the second being a Facebook friend I haven’t seen in real life since Grade 6.
This girl was once my best friend. She is now just a mere Facebook friend, but as she posted heartbreaking updates about her younger sister who was diagnosed with cancer and chronicled her brave and inspiring fight against it, I couldn’t help but feel connected.
I remember her little sister well. She used to tag along pestering us to play with her. She was an incredibly cute kid, with high cheekbones, a big, bright smile and she often had her thick, dark hair tied up in two high ponytails — one poking out of each side of her head — that bounced along as she walked.
But back then my friend and I had much bigger fish to fry. We certainly couldn’t waste our time playing with a little kid!
Not only did we have to breakdown the merits of each of the scrawny boys we had crushes on, but we also had to figure out which one of them we’d eventually marry.
This was important stuff, as you can very well imagine.
My friend’s sister was five years younger. In grade school, that may as well have been a 100 years, for the generation gap was that great.
Recently my friend shared a crushing update. Her sister had died. Soon after, she posted her obituary.
I tear up just writing those words: the empathy is palpable.
It’s that real.
This for a woman I haven’t seen in years, a woman whose life I’ve only seen unfold through glimpses on a Facebook feed. Yet, here we are — connected.
We’ve messaged one another several times, with me always trying to find the words — the right words — to tell her how sorry I am. It is futile, for if you’ve ever suffered great loss, you understand how words fail.
The point really, of all of this, is this: Facebook isn’t always sunshine and roses. At least I’ve never experienced it that way.
I’ve seen the rust and the ups and downs, the scratches on this so-called perfect veneer. It is not one-dimensional, this online world of ours.
I shared with you the story of my friend and her sister because it moved me, as many people have as they’ve shared the images and words that narrate their lives.
In all of its grit and the glory, perspective and inspiration can be found. There can be meaning. It is all there; but it is up to you to seek it out.
On Facebook, as in real life, the onus lies on us to choose our friends wisely. We must understand that Facebook uses the term friends loosely, covering the gamut of family and acquaintances, work colleagues, superficial encounters, and pals from long-ago chapters of our lives.
Among the latter I’ve found some of the most interesting people. Some of them have surprised and delighted me, and many have inspired me. It is simple: If you and I are friends, I wish the best for you.
It is unlikely that every one of our Facebook friends is someone we’d call up for a chat (seriously, I’ve seen folks with 700-plus connections), but with that in mind, ideally we’re curious about them and take a genuine interest in hearing about their lives and the paths they are choosing. If not, then perhaps it’s time to edit down those lists.
True friends, well they’re the ones that pick you up when you’re down and celebrate with you when you’re up, and, above all else, they want good things for you and to feel the joy that comes from your happiness.
Tell me, do you know who your friends are?
Want to read more about relationships? Check out these two posts: We Could Learn A lot from Our Children and Everyone is Entitled to an Opinion — but not Everyone Wants to Hear it.
Less than a week-and-a-half after starting daycare, our boy was given the boot.
No, he didn’t spark a toddler riot or get busted creating anarchist crayon drawings, but he did do one thing that our daycare does not tolerate—he got sick.
Yep, it didn’t take long before our son succumbed to the daily onslaught of drippy noses and wet, uncovered coughs among his new crew.
Before daycare, I thought our kid’s immune system was as tough as nails.
Case in point, in a one-week span, he was unknowingly exposed to hand, foot and mouth disease by one of his little friends, another pal’s Pharyngitis, and then my husband’s flu, and didn’t get any of it.
Daycare, however, is a different can of worms . . . err . . . germs.
Those chubby-cheeked little munchkins pack a punch, man, what with their sharing of slobbery toys and lack of appreciation for personal space. There is a buffet of new creepy crawlies coming at him from every side, and a person can only take so much, really.
So, just as I was getting into the swing of things and enjoying hours of uninterrupted writing time, I was called up and asked to come and fetch our son, who had suddenly become ill and had a low-grade fever.
When I arrived at the daycare, he was lethargic and his eyes were droopy, like those of a turtle.
When I picked him up, he fell heavily into my arms, a sack of sweet baby boy with dangling feet, and he quietly muttered "bye, bye" to his new friends. His voice was soft and slurred.
Here we go, I thought. This is what we’d been warned about—the cesspool of germs synonymous with daycares.
Says one friend, a father of two young children, “The socializing for your child is awesome. But, be prepared to get sick a lot. The kids get together, lick things, swap germs, wipe their hands on each other. And it builds up their immune systems. Your son will come home with a bit of a sniffle, but those microbes get to the parents and knock you both on your butts. You're unprepared for the kind of germ warfare that will be brought home on a daily basis.
The next morning, your son wakes up, he's fine, he's chipper, that sniffle has gone away. You only want to die. Your eyes are swollen shut. Your nose is clogged. Your ears are plugged. You wonder how the plague could have overtaken you so quickly.”
My friend was right.
After another full day of being quite sick and clingy, our child was suddenly better.
The next morning, he was buzzing around the kitchen, babbling away, and dancing about.
My husband, however, was not.
He let out a wet cough and said a cloggy-nosed goodbye before leaving for work.
As for me, I was feeling fine.
In the past few years, I’ve been sick only once, and that was because our son coated me in projectile vomit (I tell you, there really is no coming back from that).
Oh, but then it hit—the watery eyes and stuffed-up nose, the sore throat, body aches, and ears so plugged I can barely hear.
Right now, I am snuggled in bed with a big box of tissues at my side and a mountain of deadlines to meet.
Meanwhile, my husband is at work being propped up by cold and sinus meds.
As for our son, well, you probably already guessed—he has happily returned to daycare with barely a sniffle remaining.
Welcome to the world of daycare. Looks like we're in for a treat.
If you liked this, check out: "Freedom! What is this Thing Called 'Me Time' Again?" and "Sending Our Child Out Into the Big World of Daycare."