I’ve learnt a lot about parenting from television, but not from an “expert” giving me the latest advice. No, I mean from the actual medium of television itself. And quite a few lessons applied this Christmas, for example…
Commericals Really Do Make Kids Greedier
I never really noticed until we got rid of commercial television during the spring and switched to Netflix/Boxee/iTunes. For some reason, I honestly thought that by shouting back “No” to their constant chorus of “Can we get that?” I was dealing with the gimme problem. This Christmas though, our kids gave us sensible lists early on, and everyone was genuinely grateful after the gifts were opened. Having grown up watching hours of commercials I never realized what a corrosive effect they had on my childish wellbeing. It’s shocking to think that my lifelong dream of a house with The Clapper in each room, may ultimately have originated outside my soul.
Nice Things Don’t Make Kids into Good People
It’s one of the oldest plot devices out there, whether prime time soap, Masterpiece Theatre, or reality TV — super rich people acting badly. They have everything you could possibly want, all the advantages, all the toys, and they still stoop to worst behaviour possible. And on the surface, I don’t think that anyone would disagree with this. But spoiling our kids just feels so good, it’s pretty easy to start sneaking in a little bit of justification into the mix, too. I mean, it would be great to be the hero of Christmas and make our kids into living saints. Which would be acknowledged by all after they receive the Order of Canada for jumping into a frozen river to rescue a toddler they saw on the way home from volunteering at the soup kitchen. Alas, I have never heard a selfless person upon reflecting say “I did it all because my parents gave me every damn thing I wanted. Booyah!”
If It’s Not Working, It Gets Cancelled
No matter how popular a show was, as soon as the ratings do a nose dive, it’s history. So too with holiday traditions that just don’t work any more. No one likes Grandma stuffing recipe with the pecans and dates — gone! No one can sit still without whining for 4 hour of present opening — figure a way to speed it up! Kids cranky and irritable waiting in itchy dress clothes for 8:00 o’clock formal sit down dinner — comfy clothes and dinner’s at 4! Just like syndication, you’ll always have the memories, but life is too short. Make space for stuff that you actually look forward to doing.
Ever notice how two or three of the same “theme” will appear in different shows on different networks each fall? TV folks know that if it seems like a good idea over there, it just might work back home. While I tend to decry this kind of creative laziness, I’ve decided that in parenting it’s OK! So, if you see something cool that another family is doing — cookie decorating party, Christmas treats for the birds in the yards, carolling parties, whatever — take it! It’s yours! There is no copyright on Christmas fun, baby. Now, go for a walk tonight and see if you can get any tree ideas from the people who haven’t drawn their curtains.
Tradition is Framework for Innovation
Here’s an example: the award show format. Every year the producers try to mix it up. But think if they decided to go “crazy” and have two stand-ups ad lib the entire 3 hours, who told us who won everything in the first 15 minutes. Even if it was the “best thing ever,” it would stink. Why? We want an award show to follow some simple rules — the change up comes between the parts we expect. Christmas with kids is the same way. I love to be spontaneous. However, you have never heard a room so quiet as when I suggested we get together on Christmas Eve, rather than the 25th. And my husband had to duck for cover when he floated the idea of roast beef instead of turkey. People like what they like. Put the new and improved between that stuff.
Hopefully this proves that all those hours in front of a cathode ray tube has not rotted my brain, but in fact made me a better Mother.
And extra TV time for all who agree.