Sunday, July 17, 2011

And We Go Out With a Whimper

Overall, TV Turn-Off Week was successful, but we didn't go the whole week. 

I didn't cave, exactly.  Dylan got sick.  Wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night and throw-up-all-over-the-floor sick.  Stay-home-from-camp sick.  I just couldn't say "no TV" on a sick day, which was Friday. 

I had originally said two hours only, then went off to work.  He conveniently neglected to mention the time limit to his dad. 

It's okay - it meant we got to watch the last episode of Friday Night Lights.  Well, RockStar did.  I ducked out to get Dylan down and missed the last 10 minutes.  We didn't realize it was a 90-minute episode.  (Who does that?)

I have to say that it went well, although a large part of the reason is that we had a lot going on - Kung Fu, Youth Group, and other activities that took up the evening. 

The arguments over TV have already started back up.  In fact, there's one going on in the background as I type this very sentence!

So, did TV Turn-Off Week have an impact?  I honestly don't know.  It was pretty pleasant for me.  And until the TV actually got turned back on, it was pretty well understood that it wasn't coming on.  But we seem to be right back to where we started.  Dylan would be perfectly happy if the TV were on all the time, if we let him always choose what to watch.  It's really almost an addictive situation, and I really don't know what to do about it.

Do we kill the TV?  Although I'm not a big TV watcher there are a few things I enjoy and RockStar definitely enjoys it.  Would that be spiting the rest of the family?  And with videos on the computer, would Dylan just find a way to watch that way? 

The latter half of this week has been bad, unrelated to TV Turn-Off Week (I think!?).  I'm feeling as bleak as the weather we're having (gray and rainy). 

Monday, July 11, 2011

TV Turn-Off Week, Days 1 and 2

The week did not have an auspicious beginning.  At first I thought everything was okay.  Sunday morning I heard Dylan get up and the TV did not go on immediately (as usual) as I had feared.  

He did seem to be at loose ends, not quite sure what to do with himself.  He finally settled on playing with his yo-yo, although that involved him coming in and getting the loop retied and there were a few other reasons he had to come in while we were still (trying to still be) asleep.

After I got up, things went downhill.  He was grouchy, I guess since the morning was so unusual.  We have always been very easy going about weekend morning TV.  He did try to make his own breakfast out of a kids' cookbook he has, but that didn't go well and he didn't eat most of it.  Somehow, we made it to church without ending up in a screaming match.

The afternoon turned out well...because he went to a friend's house.  He admitted later that he did watch TV over there, but I guess you have to just go with the flow at someone else's house.  When he came home, we played a few different games, but I had to put a halt to it at one point because he was being a terrible sport, insisting that he had to win and that I had to let him win.  I was beginning to wonder how he has been at camp all summer, although I know from experience he saves this kind of behavior for us.  

We had a bit of melt-down at bedtime, but that was completely unrelated to there not being any TV.  In general, I felt as though the first day had gone relatively well, maybe even better than expected.

I was concerned how this morning would turn out.  TV time is often a morning reward for good behavior in getting dressed, and is even more lax and accepted in the summertime.  Like Sunday, he started off at loose ends but when I suggested he look at the Pokemon cards he had bought at a rummage sale, he got completely absorbed in them.  

I was happy - this was how it was supposed to be.  TV Turn-Off Week was showing that there is more to life than Scooby Doo and Sponge Bob.  

I thought we were in big trouble when, on the way to Kung Fu, he talked about watching TV when we got home.  A few weeks ago, following an onslaught of whining, I told him he could watch TV on Mondays after camp if he didn't ask about it at all Tuesday through Thursday. He had it in his mind that this "deal" trumped TV Turn-Off.  

With trepidation, I calmly told him it didn't...and he accepted it!

Kung Fu took up some of the evening and I promised him something really special and unique if he was a good boy up to and through dinner.  And he was, entertaining himself by practicing Kung Fu moves and playing with Pokemon cards.  (Does it count if the cards themselves are from a TV show?)

So after dinner, he did something he had never done before - he walked down the street by himself to by a snowball (aka a slush, a water ice, or a shaved ice, depending on where you are from).  RockStar nearly had a heart attack when I told him the plan, but we have tried to raise him as free range as we can, considering we work during the day and he doesn't have friends who live close by.  

I had tried to get him to get a snowball on his own before but he had balked.  But today, boy, was he ready!  He decided to take his scooter, which is not the best idea if you have to carry something back - but it was up to him.  And despite all the Nancy Grace's in the world, all was well.  He made it to the snowball stand, about 2-1/2 blocks away, crossing a fairly busy cross street, without a hitch.  And he bought and paid for the snowball (my money, of course), and returned home in the time allowed (20 minutes).  He did drop the cup and crack it, but that didn't rub a bit of the shine off of his proud face!
At one point this evening, he did say that it was weird to be in the living room without the TV on.  Never mind that we do not leave it on all the time and watching it in the evenings is a Friday night and weekend thing.  But I think it's more the idea of it...even the idea that begging for it was off limits.  I'm proud that he respected it and didn't ask me.

As for's just plain quiet in the evening after Dylan goes to bed!  We had the radio on last night, but tonight it's just silent.  Very strange, but pleasant.  RockStar turned in early, rather than zoning out on TV and I bet he does again tonight.  

Fingers crossed...I hope this is a positive beginning. 

Tell me, have you ever had a TV Turn-Off Week? 

Friday, July 8, 2011

The End of an Era

 Unless you were hiding under a rock, you know that the last space shuttle lifted off into space today. 

Photo courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls

I still can't believe that's it.  That there will be no more shuttle lift offs and that there's no next-generation plan to replace the shuttle.  That we have been reduced to being taxi passengers on the spacecraft of other countries.  That we, as a country, seemingly are not as interested as innovation and exploration as we once were.

I grew up in the era of SkyLab, the first space station.  It was practically science fiction at the time, but I was captivated.  It might have helped that my mom was a rabid sci fi fan from way back.  One of the original Trekkies.  She brought me up to have a healthy respect for the possibilities of space and the importance of dreams. 

Whether by osmosis or just natural selection, Dylan has been enamored with space since before he could talk.  I found an old paperback Little Golden book about space and astronauts at a used book sale when he was about 3 or 4 and he would have me read it over and over.  When his preschool class was invited to bring in their favorite book, that's the book he brought in. 

At the time, his teacher told me that preschoolers were too young to understand space and recommended that we find another book.  While we switched it out for a book about trains (a lesser obsession), I knew his teacher was wrong about kids not understanding about space, at least as far as Dylan was concerned.  Somehow Dylan always knew and understood.

In second grade, his class published a book called Dream Big.  Each child in his class wrote about what they wanted to be when they grew up.  There were rock stars, football and soccer players, and teachers,  But Dylan chose scientist as his future career...a scientist who studies space. 

So I can't help but feel saddened by the last shuttle launch.

I'm even sadder that the space program has been left adrift. 

And heartbroken, wondering if my little scientist will even get the chance to one day live out his dream if space innovation and exploration are no longer valued in America.  

Dreams are important.  Innovation is integral.  We need both to feed the imaginations and creativity of our youth, the same youth for whom we are cutting educational programs.  We need dreams and innovation to feed our very future. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Boob Tube

Next week will be TV Turn-off Week in our house.  

Yes, I know that the actual Screen-free Week was some time back in April, but it just wasn't a good time for us.  I realize that sounds like a cop out; like we waited to turn off the TV in the summertime when a lot of the first-run network shows aren't even on.  But the reality is that it's needed much more now than it was in April.

Since...oh...forever, I've maintained pretty consistent TV rules with Dylan.  TV is allowed in the morning once he's dressed and ready for school.  But no TV in the evening on a school night.  Yes, no TV.  I find we are in a definite minority on that one.  Most parents tell me that want to cut back on their kids' evening viewing.  For us, however, I find TV is nothing but a negative distraction during the school year.

You'll see that school figures heavily in the rules above.  The supposed reality is that the rules are year-round.  But the real reality is that we do cave in a lot more easily in the summertime.  It's a lot harder to insist on no TV when there's no homework, I'm trying to get something done like cooking dinner, and Dylan is at loose ends but hot and tired from summer day camp.  I'd say TV ends up on in the evenings before bedtime at least once or twice during the week, not counting Fridays, when it is allowed.

That said, TV has become a major issue.  I get the request to watch TV nearly every day.  I say that as though it's a polite inquiry followed by obedient acceptance of my decision.  In actuality, it involves lots of whining, complaining, and the occasional foot stomp.  I've been told I've ruined his day, even his life.  There's really more drama in our living room than there is on TV.

It's funny, really, that TV has gotten such a bad name around our house.  When I was Dylan's age, I think I already had a TV in my bedroom (a 12-inch black and white set).  I watched as much TV as I wanted.  I knew what time it was by what was on TV, and I considered the characters on my favorite TV shows (shows like Hogan's Heroes, Happy Days, Starsky and Hutch, and Barnaby Jones) almost like friends.  It was not uncommon for me to have TV put me to sleep.

It almost makes me feel as mean as Dylan thinks I am.

My reversal is fueled by several things.  For one, I know more than my mom did then.  Heck, we all know more than my mom did then, including my mom.  Study after study screams the ill effects of TV watching to us.  I guess it's ironic that the more we hear about how bad TV is, the more channels they offer us.  

I want to say that TV is a lot worse now than it was then, but really, it's not like I learned much about World War II from watching Hogan's Heroes.  Starsky and Hutch was more about the red Grand Torino with the snazzy lighting stripe careening around corners than anything else. It's not like I was watching Masterpiece Theater or Nova.  

That said, there weren't a lot of shows really targeted at kids and only kids.  Sure, Little House on the Prairie (another favorite) was family TV, but Hannah Montana was never meant for kids and adults to both enjoy.  

I've also seen a dramatic shift in kids' television just in the nine years Dylan has been alive.  The majority of his TV viewing has been on Disney Channel, and I've seen them go from having pre-teen "sit-coms" in the evening to having them all day.  And the shows have gone from the The Suite Life of Zack and Cody with the kids living with mom to The Suite Life on Deck with mom living somewhere else while the kids float around the world and cause trouble on a cruise ship.  At least Billy Ray Cyrus was a pretty common factor and relatively stable voice in Hannah Montana.  Disney's newer Shake It Up rarely features adults (the host of the dance show definitely doesn't count).  When they do have an adult character make a token appearance, the kids are completely disrespectful, with the adults just foils for the laughter.  Only, I'm not laughing.  

Even on a cartoon, Disney's Fish Hooks, there are no parents in the fish tank world of the pet store.  It's a sad state of affairs when Disney is competing for Nickelodeon's audience by mimicking all of their shows.  Sponge Bob meet Fish Hooks.  iCarly meet Shake It Up.  

Of course, the biggest argument against TV is all the things it replaces.  When I was Dylan's age, I was already engrossed in books.  While I kept track of my TV shows, I also spent a lot of time reading, doing crafts, and playing in the woods in back of my house. 

So we are going to spend the week - all of us - not watching TV.  Since I really don't get to watch much as it is (what with meetings, running after Dylan, and RockStar manning the remote), I don't expect it will be too difficult for me. And since it is summer, RockStar will probably survive.  

I know it will be difficult for Dylan at first.  But I'm hoping it ends up being one of his favorite weeks of the summer.

Tune in next week to learn more...