I assume some responsibility for Buddy-roo‘s addiction.

When she was about 10-months old, she started spending her mornings with the television. This is because she’s always been much too early a riser. We compensated by feeding her a breast-in-bed (and later a bottle) and then removing her from the room designated for sleeping adults, and exiling her to the living room.

Far from punishment, she delighted in the placement, upright and secured in the exersaucer, smack in front of the television. First it was Baby Einstein (et al) that entertained her. I choose the word entertain carefully, as I never bought into the intelligence-enhancing promise of these DVDs and I would prefer not to be confused with that sort of obsessive mothering. Let’s call it like it is: survival parenting. Ya gotta sleep.

De-facto and I would take turns. One of us would fetch her from the crib, and then after the feeding, the other would carry her out to the living room and sleepily plant her in the large plastic circular device. Having set up the video the night before, it’d be just a matter of hitting two remote buttons and she’d be glued to the tube while we could stick to our pillows.

As Buddy-roo outgrew the marbles dropping (and other hallucinogenic images) in sync with Mozart, her morning fare evolved to longer movies, mesmerizing her for sometimes up to an hour and a half, permitting us the equal prolongation of that oh-so-needed shut-eye.

A gold-medalist, Buddy-roo broke all the exersaucer records. Not only could she sit in that thing twice as long as Short-pants ever did, she continued to use it until she was more than 3-years old. Her legs would be bent into a full squat, even with the saucer raised to its highest setting. Pulling her out required pressing my own foot on the saucer tray to hold it down and get enough purchase to wriggle her legs and feet through the holes of the cloth seat/harness. It was like pulling Winnie-the-Pooh through Rabbit’s window. (Another favorite, by the way.)
We created a habit. Like a drug, Buddy-roo consumes movies. She thinks about watching one first thing in the morning. She asks for it the moment she’s home from school. This is her most favorite pastime.

As a rule, we watch very little television in our home and we try to avoid watching it when the kids are around (our HBO box-sets come out after bedtime). The exceptions to this include only the CNBC’s Squawk Box (De-facto loves his business news fix) and Jon Stewart’s Comedy Central relay on CNN. But despite our abstinence, Ruby-doo loves the idiot-box. At least we avoid commercial TV; she’s limited to a world of DVD movies.

We have many-dozen. Half of them are Disney. I know there’s a whole storm of anti-princess sentiment. I don’t particularly love those caricature films, but Buddy-roo does. Sure, we’re promulgating a false rescue by non-existent Prince Charming, but I’ve tried to compensate by coaching the girls a bit about the gender roles depicted in these films. While watching Sleeping Beauty, I asked Short-pants and Buddy-roo, “What if the prince pricked his finger and fell into an eternal slumber? Would you fight the goblins, forge through the thorny forest and slay the dragon in order to deliver the awakening kiss? Would you do it for him?” After a moment of reflection, Short-pants responded, “If I felt like it.” Good enough.
I’ll admit that I use the electronic babysitter when I have work to do. This becomes problematic when the kids choose to watch something more educational, like Sesame Street or The Electric Company episodes. De-facto and I can’t help ourselves; we end up gravitating to the couch, too. What’s not to love about award-winning actors Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby teaching your kids how to read? I’d argue that the 1970s produced the best children’s programming on television.

Perhaps I should be ashamed or discouraged about my tube-headed daughter. But I’m not. For her, watching a movie is a physical activity. This becomes especially evident when she’s watching a musical. She’s up in front of the TV screen acting it out. She’s marching up the mountain and sitting with the Von Trapp children as they do-re-mi through their first picnic. She’s kicking up on the rooftop with all the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins. She dances every move with Miss Turnstile in On the Town. She hides behind the couch during the fight scene in West Side Story. (I know, that’s a kind of a tough movie at the end, but I figure I’m introducing her to Shakespeare.) For Ruby-doo, television is not a passive activity. It’s her greatest pleasure.

So we mete it out. A little each day. Her reward is our salvation.

The other day, while watching Mary Poppins, Buddy-roo asked, “Why do people put their money in the bank?” I gave her a simplified explanation about savings and interest and borrowing, finishing my tutorial just at the start of that scene near the end of the film where there’s a run on the bank. She watched the panic as the bank tellers slammed their window screens shut. “But why do people put their money in the bank?” she asked again.

Maybe she is ready to watch Squawk Box.

One Response to “Tube-Head”

  • j Says:

    So enjoyable reading you again, it’s been a while and well worth waiting for, this one resonates loudly for many reasons, particularly the lines “So we mete it out. A little each day. Her reward is our salvation.”

Leave a Reply