Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Kid Watches TV and That's Okay!

A few years ago when I took my son in for his 24 month check up and was sitting in the pediatricians office I read a poster that said children under the age of 2 should not be allowed to watch more than half an hour of television a day.

Well shit. My son had been watching a movie a day (sometimes even two on really bad days when he woke up at 4 in the morning and wouldn’t go back to sleep.) Did this make me a bad parent? I felt incredibly guilty. I depended on the time Sam watched movies to complete an illustration, or work on a piece I’d been writing, or maybe even wash the gigantic pile of dishes collecting in the sink. I went home and asked my dad (who happens to have his doctorate in child and family studies) what he thought. He said a movie a day was not going to hurt anything and told me not to worry. But I did worry. I still let him watch movies, but that stupid poster kept nagging at me and I felt as though I was doing something wrong.

Talking to other parents didn’t help. Some moms would admit they occasionally let their kids watch TV, but then add defensively “They are all educational shows like Sesame Street and Magic School Bus.” Other parents didn’t let their kids watch any TV at all. I continued to feel guilty even though Sam averaged out only 1½ to 2 hours of TV a day. I often found myself taking an apologetic or defensive tone when I explained this to other people saying things like, “I know I shouldn’t let him watch so much TV” and “Movie time is the only time I can work on what I need to get done.”

I have to admit that one of the reasons I let Sam watch movies and TV is that I want him to become a movie buff like me. I hope to spend many future evenings watching Star Wars, It’s a Wonderful Life, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Much Ado About Nothing with my son on the couch. This is the future I want. I know there are plenty of people out there who don’t care for movies and that’s okay. I just don’t want to be judged for choosing to raise my son in this movie connoisseur lifestyle I have chosen.

My dad was right to tell me not to worry. My son is 3½ now and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he is turning out. He is a smart, healthy, kind-hearted little boy with a wildly active imagination. I’ve decided to stop caring so much about what other people think of my parenting style. There are so many recommendations and rules that parents are supposed to follow in raising their kids, and it’s impossible to meet them all. Every family is different. Every child is different. Yes, I let my child watch movies. I let him watch TV shows on Netflix. Occasionally I even let him watch over 3 hours worth and that’s okay! Parenting should not be judged on whether or not we follow all the Pediatric rules and guidelines. The kids themselves are the best reflection of good or bad parenting. In the end it doesn’t matter how many vegetables your kids eat or how much TV they watch. It’s the time you spend with them, and the example you set that counts.

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