Since letting go of my controlling attitude about tv, things have been much more peaceful around here. It has lost it's power, and it's no longer the "mind sucking zombie box," but simply another tool to be used.
I still find myself getting stuck in old thought patterns sometimes though. For about 3 or 4 days during the last week, E was watching a lot of tv. The same dvds over and over again, and movies on youtube. I've been pretty busy with work, and not feeling well, so I wasn't as engaging or interesting as I would have liked to be. I started thinking "She's watching too much. She's going to get stuck like this. It's rotting her brain."
I wavered back and forth about what to do about it, if anything. I don't mind her watching it if that's really what she wants to do. But sometimes she watches it just because she's bored, and nothing else interesting is going on. She's not really enjoying it, she's just stuck in her efforts to try to find something else to do. I wanted to strew lots of interesting things in front of her, play, and get outside, so she'd have lots of other options besides the tv. But I was busy with work, and tired, and then I just felt guilty.
So, I just observed her for a while. I looked for signs of boredom or feeling stuck. I brought her food, and watched with her for a few minutes here and there, and talked about the shows. I knew that at any time I could just turn it off, and say "go play," but I had made a conscious choice months ago to not do that. As I observed her, I could see that she was clearly getting something out of it. She wasn't just watching it, she was intrigued. And sometimes the intrigue would wane, and she'd play while she watched or leave to play and then come back. She could do that because she wasn't stuck or "glued."
By the 3rd or 4th day, I could see the interest dying down. She was getting antsy and looking bored. By that time, I wasn't so busy and I was feeling better, so it was good timing. I starting strewing things more actively. Instead of just reminding her we had games to play, I pulled out the memory game and set it up on the table. I also put out some paints and crayons and paper. I was tempted to try to make her do those things instead of watch tv, because I was still hearing those "too much" voices in my head. Instead, I told them to shut up, and just focused on being an active participant in her life.
The memory game and the paints sat on the table while we watched The Lion King together. I enjoyed the time spent together and the snuggles, but I went to bed thinking "I hope I'm doing the right thing. What if she never wants to do anything creative again?!"
The next morning, she was so excited that the paint was still out. We painted together, and drew pictures. She wanted to write numbers, so we did that for a while. Over the last few days, she's hardly watched any tv at all. We went to Goodwill, and picked up the game Yatzee. She played that with D for over an hour one night. She also bought a stuffed zebra, having been inspired by the zebras in the Lion King. We went for a walk to the store, and spent most of the way there talking about what zebras eat. Today that expanded to a discussion about what dogs eat, and that dogs in the wild eat different than pet dogs. Lion King also inspired talks about kings and what a king is and who is the King of Kings.
We got a toy drum, and I showed her youtube videos of Wipe Out and We will Rock You. She had a blast coloring everyone's toenails with a marker, and drew all over D's chest and stomach. She's been to the park, an indoor playground, a babywearing meeting, two walks, several stores and other errands. We've talked about zebra's and dogs and what they eat, and why mommy doesn't eat food with chemicals. We've talked about trees, and their leaves and flowers and seeds. She gave me directions (go right, go left) while we were driving and walking. She's pretended to make us food, be a dog, be a veterinarian, and put band aids on her "owies." She's read books, sang songs, told stories, colored and painted, played in the bath, rocked dolls, crashed toy cars and played catch. We've wrestled, tickled, jumped on the bed (and done some impressive flips), and stood on our heads. She's bought things with her own money, and helped me shop. And those are just the highlights of the last few days that I can remember at midnight.
None of those things were colored or hindered or lessened by the fact that she could have been watching tv instead, had she chosen to. Today we were out running errands for most of the day, and when we came home she watched SpongeBob and I played on the computer. After some time resting, she reminded me that earlier I had promised we would go on a walk. She happily turned the tv off in exchange for a walk down the street.