Saturday, July 12, 2008

Santa, I Hardly Missed Ya

Sitting here this quiet Saturday morning at the kitchen table with the sun filtering in from the living room window to illuminate our breakfast feast, I had a moment where a smile appeared out of nowhere. I thought to myself, "Now where did that come from?", but didn't have to think to long. Here I was with all that is important, surrounding me. Lukas was in his high chair, devouring the fruit filled oatmeal that mom had made for him, Mrs. LIAYF was quietly perusing the morning paper, and I was sipping my freshly brewed morning coffee, taking in what has become a staple moment in our household. Sitting down together, as a family, without outside interruption, to enjoy our meals and each other as well.

In my previous post 'The Year Without a Santa Clause' I talked about our decision to give up television just before Lukas was born. Yes, we did give up cable and local TV channels and it was difficult at first, but moments and meals like that which I described from this morning, happen much more frequently now, without the background hum and chatter of the previously ever present tube. I will admit (and if you read this blog regularly, both of you will realize) that Mrs. LIAYF and I have not completely given up watching media altogether. After we put Lukas to bed in the evening, have cleaned up the dishes and toys from the evening dinner and play time, and have taken care of any pressing family business, such as paying bills, calling family, or ordering groceries, we will sit down and watch one episode of whichever series we are currently getting delivered from NetFlix. We just ended the 4th season of 'The Wire' (a great series), and are dabbling with a few other shows, while we wait for season 5 to be released sometime in August. We enjoy this time to ourselves in the evening to unwind and are happy that we can have control over how much time we spend in front of our television set.

I recently read an article in our local paper that indicated nearly 40% of 3 month olds and 90% of 2 year olds watch television on a regular basis. Mrs. LIAYF and I personally don't think television is necessary for a boy Luke's age, but respect that other parents may have differing opinions. That being said, what I can say about Lukas is that the lack of television in his life (he has not watched any, other than an occasional glimpse at another person's home) has definitely not negatively affected him. Lukas is an extremely social, happy, curious boy who smiles and interacts with people we have just met out in public. He is thoughtful and fun loving, sleeps well, and doesn't throw tantrums. I know that things will not always be this peachy as Lukas grows, and I also don't believe that the lack of television has been the sole factor determining his demeanor to this point. However, I do believe that it has had one other large impact. Mom and dad are not distracted by the TV, and are thus able to be more attentive to Lukas than we otherwise would have been.

At first thought, I felt like I had to give up quite a bit by cancelling our cable. I have always been a huge sports fan and watching my teams, win or lose, has been an extremely important part of my life. After the switch I started out by following my teams closely on the radio, or in the daily paper. However, without being able to see them on TV, often several days would go by before I checked in, and as many of you know a lot can, and usually does, happen in sports in that amount of time. The result has been that I have gradually drifted away from my dependence on sports as entertainment. I'm still not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but I do know that what has replaced sports as entertainment, watching Luke develop in all sorts of wonderful ways over the past year, has been extraordinary. I can honestly say this has been a terrific decision. This time in a child's life goes by so fast that if you divert your attention to other things for too long, you are going to miss something grand and amazing.

Yes, there will be a time when we turn the television back on, for Lukas' sake and for ours. I am not sure when that will be, but I'm sure we will know it when that time comes. In the meantime though, I will continue to enjoy quiet Saturday mornings, sitting at the breakfast table sipping my coffee watching the the latest on the toddler food network. It's fascinating!


Whit said...

My kids watch more TV than they should, but in my defense, working at home with my wife out of the house it is sometimes the only way I can get anything done. Besides, I only let them watch educational programming.

Funny thing about that, when I put my oldest in a kindergarten readiness program (to get him some socialization- we don't know many families here) he joined a group of kids that had been in the preschool for two years and he was far beyond any of them in regard to reading, writing, math, time, any of the stuff in the curriculum. I would like to think that PBS Kids isn't responsible, but I didn't teach him that stuff. Maybe he's a boy genius.

Jason Roth said...

Our son watches some television and it's been great for him. He's far above many of his schoolmates in verbal skills. But we limit it as well. He gets less than an hour each day. And overall, the entire family doesn't watch much television. There isn't anything good on anymore.

SciFi Dad said...

We had a similar belief (although we never canceled cable... we just never turned it on) for the first 13 months. All she watched was 30 minutes of DVDs of herself (baby photos set to music, clips of her as a newborn) while my wife showered.

Then, I broke my ankle, and we needed something that she could entertain herself with while my wife tended to me. And it all went downhill from there.

Now, she probably watches on average one hour in the mornings and another 30-60 minutes in the evenings. It isn't what we'd hoped for, but it isn't anywhere near what some kids watch.

Ed (zoesdad) said...

We had a tv moratorium last year. (We didn't cancel cable--we're not crazy.) But we basically turned the tv off. Kids stopped even asking for it after about 2-3 days. Slowly though, it is creeping back into our routine.

Like Whit, without it, I'd never get any chores done around here. But we are about like Scifi and on average less than 90 minutes a day.

I applaud anyone who can turn off the tube and keep it off.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Whit and Vegas - Yeah, your kids are a bit older. My wife agrees that she learned a ton from Sesame Street ( I didn't watch it). Our tv will probably come on in the next couple of years to take advantage of programs like that. Or perhaps we will just rent or check out educational videos. Thanks for pointing that out.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@ Sci-fi - You have to make due with what your situation dicates. We are by no means invulnerable to those types of situations, but for now are enjoying the respite from the tube.

@Ed - Yeah, when Mrs. LIAYF proposed this to me, I thought it was a bit crazy, but for the time being I have just shifted my priorites and dealt with it. Luke is only 1 now, and we have just the one, so it is an easy battle to fight right now. Later though?

Anonymous said...

Great post, James. Your family routine sounds just perfect. I smiled while I was reading it, myself.

We haven't given up TV, but we've found that Cooper isn't the least bit interested in it. He has plenty to play with to keep him busy. Once he starts to get it a little more and can understand time, we'll probably allow small blocks of time for him to watch his favorite show(s). Right now, we also find ourselves watching less television. If we do happen to watch something, he's really good at occupying himself with other things.

I may link to this post because I like it so much, if that's OK with you. Expect to see an extra hit or two in your web log from my one or two loyal readers ;-)

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Rob - Wow, thanks! Yes, feel free to link up to this story. I certainly think that most parents are savvy enough to know when and how much to allow thier kids to watch. We turned it off before the birth and just haven't yet felt the need to turn it back on. Like I mentioned though, that time will definitely come at some point.

Anonymous said...

My wife was not allowed to watch TV all the way up until she was in JR. High. At that point, her watching was restricted to 1 hr a day.

My wife got all A's in college minus one B+ in Advanced Latin (with Seniors when she was a Freshman).

She graduated with 2 degrees and graduated from Law School with honors.

Not to mention she taught herself how to read.

It is hard decision for one to make but I respect you for doing it.

We are not sure what the Mini-Kamp will do.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Thanks for the information DC! I have also sent you and email further elaborating some similarities with your wife and Mrs. LIAYF.