Six long weeks of summer stretched ahead of us and already I felt like my kids' eyeballs were rotting from too much telly. Last week was a new low.
The littlest was ill. She wanted me to cuddle her to sleep for an afternoon nap. I plonked the oldest in front of the iPad and took her upstairs. It soon became clear the nap wasn't happening, but she was too tired to play and ended up curling up next to her brother in front of the screen. Half an hour won't hurt, I told myself.
But half an hour turned into an hour. Almost without noticing it, I'd emptied the dishwasher, loaded and unloaded the washing machine and swept the kitchen floor. Oh! The freedom! Check me out: Getting. Stuff. Done.
Still. I probably should've turned the telly off at that point. Except I was starting to feel a bit ropey myself. Cup of tea. Bit of a sit-down. Before I knew it, I was slumped sideways on the sofa being lulled into Peppa-trance. By the time my husband came home that night, we'd clocked up a week's worth of squeaky voices in one sitting and were dead to the world apart for the occasional oink.
That night I was full of big questions:
Is Peppa even a pig at all? Or is she a bossy cow?
Is there any job Miss Rabbit can't do?
Why do they need to lie down when laughing?
*Whisper it* Could all this telly be bad for my kids? And me?
I don't mean in some long term, neurocognitive, socially-stunted, obese way. I mean like, right here, now. Cos whilst it seems that the iNanny is great at stopping them crawling up my leg while it's on, the second I turn it off it's like a Cbeebies apocalypse; all high-octane whining and primary coloured rage.
It's almost like the telly steals their imaginations, turning them into consumers who need to be entertained rather than masters of their own fun. A couple of hours of Peppa and suddenly the enchanted-fairy-castle-headquarters I've optimistically constructed out of sheets in the lounge is just 'a big boring mess, mummy'.
Not to mention the mummy-guilt. Every time I hear Peppa splashing in muddy puddles, a small part of my outdoorsy, crunchy earth mummy fantasy dies. We should be outside splashing real puddles, right? The real crunch came when my little one fell over when we were at the woods the other day and cried for Peppa instead of me. Gutted!
Something had to change. So I've decided to turn off the telly during the week, just for a bit to tame the addiction. I'm not getting precious about it. If we're at someones house and it happens to be on, I won't be shielding the kids eyes or anything. And we'll still be flicking it on as a treat at weekends. But in the week we're going unplugged. Ekkkkkkkkk!
We've only been going a week and the first few days were definitely the hardest. Here're a few things we've learnt already:
- I'm as addicted as they are - telly has always been my crutch for getting things done. For the kids, it's more about boredom and tiredness. Finding 'down-time' alternatives and 'time-out' for me takes time but they are adjusting quicker than I am.
- Puzzle books are our new go-to for the four-year-old; Where's Wally, dot-to-dot, maze puzzles and animal scrapbooks are his new favourites. He's also deeply attached to his Dinosaur Dictionary. Who knew there were 15 dinosaurs beginning with Z? Not us till we turned the telly off.
- The 2-year-old is even more adaptable. She constantly amazes me with her role play and imaginative games. Cue terrible mummy guilt that I hadn't noticed this before.
- We're reading a lot more stories. It's starting to rub off on the 4-year-old and he's starting to 'read' to his sister when I creep away for a cuppa.
- They are playing together more and there are fewer rows. I didn't realise arguing over what to watch was such a big flash point.
- They are getting better at playing by themselves while I get things done.
- They talk a lot more. Not TO each other and me. More AT each other and me. At the same time. Good and bad on so many levels.
In summary, I have noticed a big improvement in their behaviour. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are definitely our low points of the week, which coincides with the screen time we allow them at the weekend and the hangover afterwards.
So with mixed emotions, I'm so glad it's Tuesday tomorrow. Only 4 more days till Saturday...