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on programming for children and programming children

So we're leaving story time at the library today, and Harvey is hanging onto a video cassette of Thomas the Tank Engine saying "Gamma house? Ollie house?" And I'm all, "Yes, at someone else's house you can ask them to watch that show. But we're not gonna bring it home."

Upon which the librarian snorts to herself and says, "Just you wait until mama's baby is born!"

Because then, naturally, I will lose all will power to resist the incursion of Thomas into my home.

In her defense, she is the bitchy librarian.

Look, I have a philosophical stance on TV. I hate it. I think it makes adults bored and kids sarcastic. I also realize that parenting an introverted but emotionally needy child lovingly and patiently for 14 hours every day is very close to impossible without a crutch. And since that child can't read yet, the crutch is often TV.

In previous months my modus operandi was to try to get Harvey to function with as little TV as possible. That meant a string of 3 or 4 days with no screen time and followed by one sick day with an hour and a half. Even the days with no TV were stressful, though, because I was constantly trying to think one step ahead to an awesomely engaging activity we could do in case he started asking. We baked so many bagels I couldn't stand on my feet anymore. So now I have a new plan, which is to plan for a half hour of TV every afternoon, right after Rascal's walk. This way I know that when we come in from walking and I am in the most pain I'll be in all day that we can all have a quiet sit and Harvey will be happy. Also, if he asks earlier in the day I'll say "After we walk Rascal" and then I have a good answer, just like "Ask Grandma about Thomas, don't ask me."

Which brings me to the topic I wanted to write about, which Dan alluded to in his previous post: kids programming. We watch exactly two TV shows in this house: Phineus & Ferb, and Shaun the Sheep. I find Phineus & Ferb pretty awesomely entertaining, and Shaun the Sheep is entertaining enough to not be annoying. Also, Shaun the Sheep has the benefit of no dialogue, so it's not distracting to other people talking in the room and therefore the perfect thing to put on if I want a child to sit quietly through a midwife appointment. Aside from these two shows I haven't found any children's programming that doesn't annoy me. Dan likes Between the Lions but I find that excruciatingly slow.

But it's not just an evaluation scale of entertaining to grating that leads me to pick my kids shows this way. On a philosophical level I have something against Thomas, Elmo, and Disney everything. They may be good, but they're merchandised up the wazoo. Just exposing your child to any one of these "brands" means 5 years of telling him "No, we're not buying Elmo toothpaste, or Thomas coloring books, or Princess fruit snacks." It's like the TV turns your kid into a sleeper cell of consumption.

Which is either merely annoying or the end of the universe, depending on how hippy militant you want to be.

Look, everyone has something they wish their kids would never learn about, whether it be television or toy guns or McDonalds or alcohol or playboy. I love McDonalds and I wish they sold beer there. I have no problem with guns, and I think pornography serves a valuable purpose. But I hate television and I think it's the tool of the devil. Other people probably roll their eyes at this. That's okay; we all pick our own issues. I have plenty of friends who try to cook without sugar and I lovingly think they're nuts. One way or another, all our children manage to survive childhood.

Still, I get a little offended by remarks like that of the bitchy librarian which underline a collective belief of "this is the way the world is, so don't bother trying anything different." Um, have you never met a hippy before, lady? I believe there are actually several who currently reside in this town. I've been emailing them about town policies on backyard livestock.

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