Lynne is right, Sunshine loves her soap operas. No, she LOVES her soap operas. And CNN. And talk shows. And television in general. Me too. I love TV. No, I LOVE TV. I always have. Always will.
For better or for worse, I was allowed to watch a lot of TV when I was a kid. Like Lynne said, Sunshine wasn’t terribly concerned with what I saw on television. And since the family room TV was a constant companion and sometime babysitter, I got to see a lot. Sunshine was okay with that as long as I didn’t dare change the channel when one of her shows was on. I never did.
As a young adult and newlywed, I continued my television obsession. The TV came on as I walked in the door, and stayed on until I fell asleep. My husband is a TV junkie too, so we both enjoyed the ever present sights and sounds from the TV in our home. We know the jingles to tons of commercials and we can sing all of our favorite TV show themes without missing a word. The size of our TVs grew with our salaries. We now own more TVs than there are people in our house, and I won’t even mention the size of the TV in our family room. The family room TV has logged a lot of hours in service to our family.
And then we had kids.
I’m sure it was quite a shock to Sunshine when Batman and I decided that we should be careful about what our precious babies get to see and hear on TV. In fact, we made a full turn from TV-always-on to not-so-much-TV after our first Impossible Miracle was born. And now, nine full years into parenting, we hardly watch any TV at all, and when we do, it’s quite benign. Things are so different now; and Sunshine doesn’t like it.
‘No, Mom, we don’t want the girls in the room when you’re watching your soaps.’ ‘Mom, turn CNN off; we don’t want the girls to hear about the horrible things that happened in the world today.’ ‘Say, Mom, we don’t want the girls watching that show because there’s so much language…’ ‘The girls don’t need to see all that blood and gore…’ ‘Can you…’ ‘Please don’t…’ ‘Seriously, Mom…’ ‘Really…’ ‘Okay! That’s it! Turn that off!’
Don’t get me wrong. Batman and I have a TV in our bedroom that we turn on as soon as the Impossible Miracles are asleep. We watch TV until the TV is watching us sleep. We have to program that thing to turn itself off or it might still be on when the morning alarm rings. But, for better or for worse, we’ve decided that what’s right for our family is that the girls not be exposed to everything that this world has to offer right now. They don’t need to see and hear everything today. There will be plenty of time to learn all about this world; we don’t have to rush. We didn’t ask Sunshine to agree with that. We just need her to respect our decision, at least when she’s in our home. Why, oh why, did we expect that considering she hasn’t respected any other decision? Still, we hoped.
Sunshine did not agree and did not respect our choice for our kids. Her visits were difficult because she would plant herself on the family room sofa, grab hold of the TV remote, and proceed to watch her soaps, the news, the talk shows, and anything else she wanted. Nothing I did or said would convince her to turn off the TV, or change the channel, or hand over the remote. Every visit ended with her telling me how inhospitable I had been; and I felt guilty for not finding a way to make the visit more pleasant for everyone.
I turned to subterfuge. I used to hide the remote when I knew she was coming. That only led to uncomfortable conversations and outright lying (on my part) when she asked where we kept the remote. Eventually, I would give in, or someone would find my hiding spot. Then I tried putting one of the kids’ learning DVDs on just as Sunshine walked through the door. The problem with that is a person can only take so many viewings of “School House Rock” in one day. A few hours of “Conjunction Junction” would send me screaming toward the TV to turn on anything that would get that song out of my head. That fix was temporary at best.
Then I got the brilliant idea that we should put a TV (and cable!) into the guest room where Sunshine usually slept. I thought I could convince Sunshine to watch her shows in the guest room and then rejoin the family when the shows were done. Batman was conflicted about this idea: he votes yea for a TV in our bedroom, and nay to a TV in any other bedroom. I think he thought that we were sliding too quickly toward the girls wanting TVs in their bedrooms; and that’s not going to happen. Still, he went along with my idea in an effort to make Sunshine’s visits a little easier for everyone. Here’s the problem with that: CNN runs 24 hours, Soap Opera Network and Game Show Network run almost as long… With all the channels that come into my home, Sunshine’s shows are really never over. My idea hadn’t fixed anything. Sunshine’s visits remained awkward because she spent very nearly the entire time alone in the guest room watching TV. We knew she was in the house, but we hardly saw her. It was as if she hadn’t come to visit at all.
Finally, I tried to reason with Sunshine. “Mom, you were a teacher. You understand how much kids absorb from their environment. There’s just so much on TV that we don’t want to have to explain to them just yet. We just want them to be kids for now.” This failed too. Sunshine did not agree. Sunshine barked at me: “I let you watch TV when you were young and you turned out all right!” Yes. That’s true. I turned out all right. But I can’t help but wonder what would have been different if I had not spent so much of my youth sitting, mouth slightly open, staring blankly, hypnotized by the glowing rectangle in my parents’ family room. Would I have been more physically active? Maybe I would have been thinner. Would I have made friends easier? Maybe I would have learned to be a great conversationalist. Would I have developed greater curiosity about my environment? I’m not sure. Maybe all of those things would have happened. Maybe none of those things.
What I do know is that, for better or for worse, my family has chosen a different path than Sunshine chose for her children. Maybe my Impossible Miracles will benefit from that choice. Maybe not. I am doing the best I can for my kids and I hope they turn out okay. What I do know is that I can’t argue with Sunshine about it. What would be the point? She made her choices and I’m making mine. And, in the end, I did turn out (mostly) all right.