Monday, July 15, 2013

Becoming Television Aware

In the last couple weeks something has changed … something big.

Elliot – now two years, four months old – became aware of the existence of television.

I can pinpoint the exact day, and I will never forget it. Everything was normal – Elliot was playing on the floor, I was watching a Rangers game, and suddenly he looked right at me and said, “I don’t like this,” pointing at the TV.

I can’t say we were totally unprepared for this moment. For reasons I will never understand, twice during our five years of kid-free marriage, my wife purchased a Disney movie on DVD. I’d like to say it was because she liked them, but no, it was that creepy thing where she bought it for the kids we would have one day. I know this to be true because when Elliot was expressing his displeasure with the current viewing arrangement, I was handed 101 Dalmatians and Beauty and the Beast, both still in the plastic shrink wrap.

I decided to start with 101 Dalmatians, and I wish I could then report that we watched it and Beauty in the Beast a couple of times each and life went on as normal. I wish I could say that. I really do. As of the writing of this blog, I estimate I have now seen 101 Dalmatians over 101 times. Elliot became instantly infatuated with the evil Cruella DeVille or, as he refers to her, “bad lady.” At every waking moment all Lauren and I hear is, “I wanna watch bad lady” over and over. For a while we obliged, and I now consider myself one of the world’s foremost experts on the movie. I could teach a master’s-level class on this cinematic masterpiece.

In my class we would dissect how it was really the cat, Sergeant Tibbs, who did the most to save the puppies and not the “heroes” Pongo and Purdy. Or how apparently, back in the 1960’s when this movie was made, it was fine to show adults smoking or to have the extremely morbid plot line of an eccentric woman looking to kill dogs to make fur coats. If I sound like a crazy person, it’s because I am. Watching this movie 100 times will do that.

After the novelty of Elliot cutely sitting on the couch watching the movie wore off, we quickly realized we had a problem. We had to start limiting him to only a few viewings per week. I mean, this is our first kid, we have the right to have the delusion that we are going to raise him to use his imagination, play with toys and run around outside – not park in front of the TV all day. I’ll get back with you on how that works out.

As of the writing of this blog, we are valiantly trying to limit his TV to just one short session per day – right now comprised of me skipping to all the scenes with Cruella DeVille in it to satisfy his insatiable appetite to see that crazy woman. The rest of the time we try to play.

In a weird way this change in Elliot has actually made us better parents. We didn’t realize how many times we would get him started on an activity and then immediately jump on a computer, phone or start a TV show. Now we are spending more time with our TV off and our devices safely out of the reach of a curious 2-year-old.

We are trying to show him that it is possible to have fun without always having an electronic device on. And, boy, is it boring!

Jordan Echols is a Communication & Image Zone Manager with Texas Health Resources adjusting to life with the TV off more thanks to his son Elliot. 

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