The lovers, the dreamers and us
“I don’t watch much TV,” I catch myself saying.
This is both true and untrue. I don’t watch much “live” television: programs when they’re originally airing at, say, at 8 p.m. We record most everything: “The Middle,” “Black-ish,” “The Goldbergs,” “Moonshiners,” plus random science-y stuff Spencer wants and competitive cooking shows that I do.
And shows for the youngest Johnson, of course.
Like many new parents, we’d planned to control Oliver’s “screen time” as much as possible . . . but caved pretty quickly. I make no bones about it. It’s great to have goals, plans, hopes — but you know what else is great? Your sanity. Your sanity is great.
Once we discovered the green mug of Kermit the Frog would momentarily calm the baby and quiet his soul-shattering screams, Kermit became an honorary Johnson. He visits ever y day.
We don’t just plunk the kid down in front of the TV, of course. In fact, with Oliver now crawling and pulling up on everything, that’s not even possible. You can’t “plunk” him anywhere — not without a straitjacket. But I don’t feel guilty for having “Mahna Mahna” bookmarked for easy retrieval, nor that we have contributed approximately 1 million of its 79 million views.
Once Ollie goes down an angry tunnel, only “Mahna Mahna” can bring him back.
Our son’s arrival changed our lives forever, in ways both big and small — and we love that little man dearly. But his presence has also required a refresher course on sharing. Sharing our time, sleep, food, house, energy . . . everything. Children need everything you have to give (and some of what you don’t), and even though you give it gladly? Willingly? It can still be hard.
Our only TV is in the living room, where we spend most of our family time. Now curious and observant, Oliver is no longer content to sit through “Jeopardy!” and “New Girl” with us. He will tolerate the morning news long enough for me to see the weather report, but that’s about it. TV on? Kermit on. We created this beast, I know. But we had a good reason.
“The Muppets” came to our rescue when Oliver contracted hand, foot and mouth disease last November. After we got home from an anniversary dinner, our son cried so hard for so long that we drove to the emergency room at 1 a.m. Tests showed nothing, but Oliver was in hysterics. So were we.
Once doctors finally determined it was a virus, it was (slightly) easier to relax — but we still had to get him through the illness. Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Scooter were mainstays through that all-day, allnight mess: friends who brought a little silliness back into our house, reminding us that we, too, would laugh again.
Sounds dramatic — but have you ever had hand, foot and mouth? Has your 6-month-old baby? Don’t Google. Just trust me: it’s not pretty.
We watched Kermit at 3 a.m., 6 a.m., 10 a.m., noon. “The Muppets” — in all its incarnations — have rarely left our TV screen in eight months. They calm him, soothe him, make him giggle. He watches with rapt attention, eyes scanning the colors and faces.
Even when Oliver is napping, my fingers automatically navigate to an episode or two. It’s become a force of habit. Though I really do enjoy the adventures of Jim Henson’s pals, it would be nice to occasionally watch something — anything — else.
Spencer and I tend to like the same shows (or fall asleep while the other watches their own boring thing), so it’s been a non-issue in my marriage. I haven’t really had to share a TV since my younger sister and I once wrestled for the remote. At home, Dad and I would debate the merits of catching up on “Survivor” or “An Idiot Abroad,” and Mom always offered to put on a movie. Our choice.
It was all very orderly — very democratic. No struggles. No weeping.
There is no democracy with a 1-year-old. On the rare occasions I can distract Oliver long enough to grab the remote without him lunging for it, I try putting on “Sesame Street” or “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” . . . anything to break the Muppet monotony. He tolerates that for a few minutes, but it’s not fooling anyone.
That’s the scathing look Oliver gives me: “You’re not fooling anyone.”
I know that, someday, I’ll look back fondly on these hours — and hours, and hours — with Gonzo, Rizzo and crew. At least the Muppets are genuinely funny.
Compared to some of the mind-numbingly boring children’s shows in our future, I’d take Sweetums’ antics anytime. We’ll long for “The Rainbow Connection” when we’re suffering through “Caillou,” I’m sure.
Hopefully Kermit will still come by to visit.
We’ll leave the swamp lights on for him.