TV Terror

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By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter

TV can destroy your vision, judgment and the ability to use your imagination. I try to limit the amount of time my children are entertained by the tube because that means they are not otherwise engaged in more productive activities. Like loading the dishwasher, folding laundry or scooping out kitty litter—all skills necessary to keep me happy, which is imperative to the health and well-being of the family in general.

I have friends who claim they never watch television, but when further questioned, they admit that they own TVs, just don’t purchase cable or satellite services. Their only source of entertainment comes from DVDs, Netflix, or Amazon streaming in addition to other on-demand programming options. They are
simply skipping the commercials and 90% of the trivial, grossly un-entertaining shows out there.

I do have one friend who is not exaggerating when she says she watches nothing. Her preschooler has DVDs only, either borrowed or purchased. There is no streaming at her house at all. I am amazed at her dedication to the banning of one-dimensional programming. They occasionally listen to music or turn on the radio, but the parents forbid other forms of electronic entertainment. They own a computer, but no video games or consoles. They own nothing that involves the need for extra strong thumbs. Her son even attends a private preschool and loves every minute, regardless of the fact that he cannot discuss popular
cartoons at recess.

Unlike my friend’s child, my progeny are masters at watching TV without any formal training. They are capable of sneaking TV time regardless of the limits we place. Parental locks, closed doors? Child’s play. They can outsmart us any day because our will is clearly not as strong as theirs.

We have a chore list that needs to be completed prior to the activation of any electronically powered entertainment equipment. Even when I check to make sure chores were actually done, my kids can still trick me. Tons of toys and clothes can fit under a rug or couch, which only seems possible in Looney Tunes. Previously cleaned mirrors spontaneously sprout toothpaste streaks mere moments after Windex has made the reflection spotless. Dogs are not walked and floors remain un-vacuumed immediately after I try to ensure they completed everything on the list. Chores are not an obstacle to the electronics rule.

TV watching has become a war cry and a challenge for both factions in the house, a duel pitting the “Can We Catch Them” team against the “We Are Amazingly Ingenious” team. The bottom line is that the kids are far more dedicated to their cause that we are to ours.

The other day, when I was deeply ensconced in some paperwork, I noticed some mildly frenetic behavior at the front door. As it was my 6-year-old, I deemed it normal and continued to feel productive as I added another piece of paper to the “Done” pile. I find freakish and unparalleled joy in making a check mark on my to-do list.

The child in question suddenly ran by me and dashed down the basement stairs. This briefly caught my attention but again, I pushed any concerns aside as once again this behavior was not unusual.

It was only when my husband opened the front door and uttered a phrase normally reserved for Northern Virginia rush-hour highway drivers that I decided perhaps I should investigate. I opened the door; the yard was filled with dense, wafting grayness and I smelled the acrid stench of burning home. I followed the garden hose to the side of the house where my husband was heroically squelching a fire crawling from the AC units and jumping toward a dry, dying bush.

After 911 was dispatched and we determined there were no errant sparks that would ignite a new blaze, I got down on my knees and talked to the little one who had sounded the alarm.

Questions spewed forth: How did you know there was a fire? Why did you check? What happened? Were you outside?

He avoided eye contact when explaining the circumstances. Apparently he had been watching TV (he twitched at the confession) when he saw smoke float lazily by the widow. We have never had smoke float around anything, so he ran to the front door to see the cause. Even more smoke was there, and he said he could smell it. “I know where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so I got Daddy.”

AHA! He was WATCHING TV! That is why, even an entire floor closer to him, my child scooted past my work station to sound the alarm to his father, who often forgets or ignores the rules.

It didn’t matter. As I hugged him, I told him that he was a real-life hero that day. Because he was paying attention, he saved the house and maybe even us. He beamed at the praise.

“Does this mean I get an extra sticker?” he bubbled. Yes. And you can watch some more TV.

DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Northern Virginia.


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