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As mothers, we always worry about how much television time is good for our toddlers. In this post, Aditi Mathur, confesses and shares her little learnings.
The one thing I am slightly proud of, is the fact that all through my life, I have never been a slave to the idiot box. From Roadies to Saas-Bahu dramas, from reality shows that can put you in an intelligence-coma to crime-serials that seem to go on for decades – I have never felt the urge to watch anything religiously. And the same goes for my husband. We are one of the very few non-couch potato couples in our circle. We get regular recommendations like ‘Just try Bigg Boss and you’ll be hooked.’ Thankfully, we are never hooked. We’d rather read, or listen to music or just talk.
When we became parents, we just assumed that our child would automatically be immune to the television. It’s only logical that our child will do whatever we do, right?
Well, we were wrong. Why? Here’s the reason – toddlerhood.
When Gauri, my daughter, was a baby, she showed zero signs of liking to the television. Me and the Husband would watch an occasional award show, or I would put on a music channel as background-music for cooking, but she was never paying any attention to it, and was always busy with her toys. Ah, golden times!
Now that she is a toddler, things have changed. It all started a few months ago when it was extremely cold for her to play in the park outside, and not knowing how to contain or channel her toddler-typical hyper-activity, I decided to try out something that a friend of mine had suggested. I put on a channel called Baby TV. To my absolute surprise (and I’ll admit, some temporary pleasure), Gauri was hooked! It was four months ago, and I still don’t know how to feel about it.
Baby TV is all about toddlers – colors, counting, rhymes, dancing, sleeping and puppets. Within a few weeks, Gauri started singing along with the rhymes on TV, responding to their ‘Which color is this?’ and ‘What comes after 3?’ questions. Recently, Disney Junior also joined in. She is a Mickey Mouse fan and loves all the trains in Chuggington. She sings number-song and happily cheers puppet characters to finish their food, and the Husband and I are like, ‘Um, this is not good, but it ain’t that bad, eh?’
I now, I know, TV is evil, but let me explain! All around us we see kids singing and dancing to Char Botal Vodka and Baby Doll which is sad to say the least, and if our toddler is dancing to the Mickey Mouse Club House theme song, it’s not entirely a bad thing, right? She can recite a couple of Dr. Seuss stories, replies excitedly to Mickey Mouse’s questions (his stare is very strong) and says things like, ‘Toys are not important mumma, friends are!’ (Mickey Mouse gyan, yes), and I think it’s okay.
She never watches anything else. Forget about any songs/movies/serials, she can’t even stand the other cartoon channels and their Chotta Bheems and Doremons – thank god for small mercies, really. And after months of a parenting dilemma, we have reached the tough decision that it is okay for now. Seriously.
I’ll be honest here, and admit that some of it has to do with our interests also. With a little child in our lives, the Husband and I had zero we-time. Between taking care of her, and household chores we literally had no time left, anyway. When she grew up a little, keeping her occupied so that I could do something else (like, pee in peace, for example) was a herculean task. She demanded my total attention, and how! And mind you, both of us were perfectly happy with it – until now, when we suddenly realized that during that one hour of Baby TV and Disney Junior, she doesn’t seem to need us. It hurt at first, but we worked around it.
Pre-Baby TV, both of us were beginning to get toddler-exhausted, shouting obscenities to whoever suggested it is the perfect time to plan the second baby. However, post-Baby TV is a different story. It took us a few weeks to come to terms with it, but yes, the Baby TV and the Disney Juniors has come into picture as the perfect baby sitter! I know it sounds pathetic and selfish, only, it’s not really that bad.
Now, don’t go all judge-y and frown-y on me. I am not saying that I am letting the TV take full custody of my toddler. I was, after all, the mom who once announced that any parent who’s letting the kids watch TV in these times, are unfit for parenting. I was the snooty new-mommy who saw your 3-year-old watching cartoon shows and said, “I am never going to let my kids be slaves to the idiot box.” So yeah, the mighty has fallen pretty low, and are even celebrating the toddler’s TV love a little, but I have rules.
TV for two hours only. One hour in the afternoon and another, during late-evenings. And with adult supervision at all times.
Those are my only rules. And it’s working out fine. I can even get her to finish her food citing lessons from Mickey Mouse. That’s got to mean something, no? And it’s not like she’s not learning anything. Apart from numerous songs and rhymes and life lessons like ‘Mumma, never pluck flowers, Minnie says!’, she’s learned the perfect pirate lingo, as well, saying ‘Yay Hey, No Way!’ every time we ask her to wear anything that’s not pink or yellow. See?
She pretends to consult a map every time I take her to the park right outside our house, and say “Which way to go next? Left, right or straight?” A La Mickey Mouse solving big mysteries like finding a lost rubber duckie. It’s insanely cute.
So between her yelling “Ooo Toodles!” every time we ask her do something, like pick her toy up, and saying “Pixie dust away!” and trying to fly, we get our at-least-she’s-learning-good-things satisfaction. And we get two hours. Two hours! If you don’t have the bossy hyper-active toddlers, you’ll not understand what a luxury this is.
After almost three years of fanatic parenthood, we have finally found a sitter that’s keeping her interested. And though it was a tough decision to let her have her two hours of TV, we are okay with it now. The thing is, she will grow up sooner than we’d like, and then it will be pointless to try and keep things from her at home, when she is being exposed to a lot more at school, with other kids and generally in life. So, we can’t have rules that are impractical.
When I was a kid, I watched one hour of Duck Take and Alladin every evening at 6. Who am I to say that today’s cartoons are not appropriate for today’s kids? Times have changed, and as long as my kid in not shaking her bottom to some crazy Bollywood song with obscene lyrics, I’m good. And if she’s learning a thing or two about colors, music and fairy-tales – I’m perfectly happy. What is this life if we don’t teach our kids about loving fairy tales and believing in a little bit of magic?
And I am happy to report that not only am I taking long warm baths now, but the Husband and I are also having some much needed we-time. Between coffee dates and conversations that aren’t interrupted by getting hit on the head by a mini-golf ball (yeah, my toddler is apparently a Golf fan, always putting the ball all around in our living room!), discussing Gauri’s future career (him) and taking uninterrupted selfies (me) – we are more than making up for the lost times. And I never thought I’d say this before Gauri hit toddlerhood, but I say it now with all sincerity – with the right selection and proper supervision, a TV and a toddler can be a fair game.
Image of children watching television via Shutterstock
Author. Writer. Blogger. Talker.
Army Wife. Mother. Digital Media Girl.
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