When she was a tiny newborn, I watched as her eyes were drawn inexorably to the television in the corner. It's a simple fact that my children, like many of their peers, are drawn to brightly glowing screens like moths to...well, brightly glowing screens. I thought about Ni (nine at the time) and the way screens have been a double edged sword throughout the first decade of her life. I thought about how I had used the television as a background to my evenings; a way to fill the room and make it feel warmer; to help keep the loneliness at bay as well as something to focus on just enough that I could better filter the sensory overload constituted by beautifully boisterous and demanding Ni. I thought that, quite honestly, I'm not sure how I would have coped with that brilliant, voracious, never-sleeping first born, hungry for constant engagement with her solo parent, had it not been for Bananas in Pyjamas, Playschool and Bob the Builder. And then I took a breath and put the television away in my wardrobe. It's still connected to Ni's Wii, so that she can play when she has the occasional urge, but I've removed the antenna.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not), we haven't really missed it at all. In recent years, Ni's screen-based interests have switched to the more satisfyingly interactive world that her computer offers, so it wasn't a great leap for her at all. At first I planned to keep up with favourite shows online, but so far, it is only Doctor Who that has seemed worthy of the effort.
I hasten to tell people, when we have the television conversation, that plenty of (too much) screen use still goes on in our house, lest we begin to take on that saintly or elitist air that those who have managed to do away with that great altar of consumerism often adopt or have thrust upon them. Even in the less than mainstream circles in which we move, eschewing television seems to be quite often viewed as a radical act; something desirable, perhaps, but beyond the reach of the ordinary family for a multitude of perfectly valid reasons.
Ly was delighted by the children's DVD I slipped into the laptop for her. It featured a puppy that looked like one of her favourite toys. She did wander back to it periodically to point at the puppy and declare, "Oof! Oof!", but after a few minutes of watching, she was demanding that I read to her.
Having watched that old DVD of Ni's with new eyes, I probably won't put that particular show on again, but when another day arrives that demands I pull a rabbit out of my ailing hat, I may well allow myself the option of another DVD. I will be ever aware, however, that with that DVD I stand at the peak of a very slippery slope.
A Waldorf spoodle utterly mesmerised by his first exposure to video.