Mom Fiends: I Want My TV Back
So while writing how to navigate the roads of allowing your kids to play M-rated games I had to keep paring down the advice & stay general; the article was already a short novel. One of the things I wanted to include was, “hope you weren’t attached to your TV because you’re never going to see it again.” Of this, I speak from experience.
I love TV. Growing up I’d know what day of the week it was by what was on TV – Wednesdays were Cheers & Night Court, Thursdays were The Cosby Show and Family Ties. When I was older it became 90210, Melrose Place. I’d stay up late watching Headbanger’s Ball, Beavis & Butthead, Ren & Stimpy, Saltue your Shorts, Cops, Married with Children, The Tracey Ullman Show – hell, I even remember when Fox network started. The greatest invention in the history of my television experience to date is the DVR. During the third season of 24 our oldest (and at the time only) child would be going to bed right during it’s broadcast. The luxury of being able to pause the show or set it to record and start it a few minutes into the recording while it still records still rocks my world. I used to plan my college classes around The Young & The Restless so the DVR became a game changer for me and I still use it for planning purposes. To me, it’s one of the best parental tools out there: the days of me rushing bedtime so I can see the opening scenes or getting upset about missing something because they need a refuel of food & drink are gone. In fact, the littlest minions don’t know about rushing during commercial breaks; the pause button on the DVR gives them all the time they need. Missed something? REWIND. Don’t like it? Fast Forward. Unless I’m watching something live, it’s a rare occasion for me to actually see a commercial. All those political ads? Screw ‘em – totally fast forward right through them and I’m no worse for the wear.
Our entertainment system, like our family, has grown over the years. We have a blended family: my husband came with his love of electronics and game systems and I came with a little boy. Together we added a Game Cube, an xBox 360 on opening day, while I was 7 months pregnant with #2 stood in line in the freezing cold to get a Nintendo Wii, justified an HDTV since we were home more, thought that a PS3 would double as our Bluray player and that a new, quieter xBox with Kinect would keep the other two busy while I took care of #3. All this doesn’t include any hand held-systems we’ve added (let’s just say we could be our own Best Buy). All those game systems are part of the largest TV, our HDTV since it looks the best there. It started off great: even though our kids were 8 years apart bedtimes and school times worked out so by 7:30 the TV was ours. Even with an occasional late-night feeding or sleep deprivation, I still got to watch my shows – premium movie channels and On Demand for the win.
And then…it just…changed. I suddenly realized I was staying up butt-crack late just to watch something that I couldn’t watch any other time. It’s not that it was raunchy stuff (though I do love me some trashy shows) but it wasn’t the greatest of family programming. It didn’t offer anything to the minion’s intelligence; it was mindless entertainment. I just wanted to watch something without someone asking me to get them something, to watch without me having to have the closed-captions on just so I wouldn’t miss what was said, to watch and enjoy just to unwind. My step-father often called the TV the “idiot box” – either because everything on it was sheer idiocy or because we became idiots just watching it I wasn’t sure. But I realized that somehow, in a house where I’m pretty sure I make and enforce the rules, my television time had been held hostage and I was relegated to TV between the hours of 9p and 6a. I had to fit sleep in there somewhere. I play hard each day so once the sun (and sons) go down I’ve basically got one foot in the grave – I need those full 8 hours of sleep to function even WITH a caffeine IV drip. So that puts me to bed at 10p. So I get ONE HOUR to cram in all my television goodness.
What the fetch?
I can’t pinpoint quite when it happened…oh wait, yes, yes I can. As soon as #1 hit middle school. He started showing signs of later nights in his pre-teen years but once he hit the teen years it’s like opening a portal to hell. Or at least Pandora’s box. The hardest thing in this whole world is remember when I was his age. I stayed up until 2a watching TV. I spent summers indoors watching MTV and playing Mario and Marble Madness on the NES. What do you do? I get one hour of TV before I crash. Is it OK to let him stay up late, hope he’s responsible and turn off the TV/consoles when I tell him? Do I set up parental controls so he has no choice? Do I make him got to bed when I do? Do I just suck it up and never watch my idiot box ever again? This was never an issue with my parent. They would either watch with me (can we say X-Files), sit out back and chat with each other if it was a nice night or grab a book and go to bed. Sometimes Mom would be on the computer with a random word game but she wasn’t ever far behind.
I realized where we had gone wrong: we allowed him to play M-rated games, but only once his younger brothers were asleep. The m-rated games were, of course, for all the systems on the HDTV, which also houses my DVR. We’d set the ground rules – no games on a school night – but we’d shown him the dark side and like a good teenager, worked every single angle. Come the weekend I was drained from the week and enforcing curfew was like herding cats. We tried to appease me (and him) and gave him an older TV, the PS2 and a cable box (no DVR for him) for his room. That didn’t last long. Teenagers, like vampires and some beastly earth-bound creatures have the capacity to wait you out. They lurk around corners, wear a path between their room, your couch and the kitchen and eventually slide onto the couch and curiously ask, “What are you watching? Can I watch, too? Are you going to be up late? When’s this over? Can I play a game? Why don’t you go to bed? I got this.”
All this is ON TOP of his multiple hand held systems and cell phone. Try sending him to his room when he’s tried my last nerve – I have to go collect all his remotes and unplug everything. Don’t think I don’t do it, either. He also has to turn in all electronic devices before bed because let’s just not get into the difficulty of the morning routine when his peripherals are in his possession. Talk about an idiot box…And that’s just the teenager. The younger minions have Sprout, WETA Kids, Netflix instant watch and digital movies on the PS3 and now that Minecraft is on the Xbox I’m SOL.
Now don’t read this as a case of the TV babysitting my kids – it doesn’t. Maybe they watch more than is recommended but Lord knows I watched more than my neighborhood’s daily allowance I’m really no worse for the wear. My whole life is minion-friendly (mostly) so when I get a chance to sit down and curl up to watch some TV, I’m most likely going to watch something that isn’t minion-friendly. I make the most of my allotted hour and sometimes stay up a little later to allow for excruciatingly hot vampires (that leads to daydreaming of him playing Christian Grey) or some ghost hunting.