The lovers, the dream­ers and us

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

“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.

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