Channeling a toddler’s TV infatuation
The irony is, if my son wasn’t so obsessed with television, I’d probably let him watch a lot more of it.
TV puts him into a state of hypnosis. He’s almost five now and has always had an endless capacity for screen time – an addiction that I feel it is my sworn duty to curb, because it’s my wearisome responsibility to set sensible limitations on almost everything in his life.
Things like: how many bananas he should eat in a single day (honestly, it depends on whether the Fair Trade ones were on special that week), which of his favourite clothes must be retired because they are beginning to restrict his blood flow, how many library books he can borrow in one visit (the rule of thumb is, if he can’t lift the stack, it’s probably too many), and what time of day it is too late to start negotiating for a play date.
Anyway, in those sweet, surreal first months of his life, I tried a wee stint of becoming a daytime TV watcher. It seemed to be a perfectly reasonable pastime, seeing as how I was spending long stretches marooned on the sofa feeding the baby. Also, I was used to the buzz and bedlam of a busy office, and I craved background noise and company, even if it was in the form of a bygone Chris Warner.
The problem was, Millan was transfixed by screens, pretty much from birth.
Even before I started educating myself about child brain development, I found it creepy that he would stare with such intensity at the flickering television. I gave up on daytime TV and began loading him into the pushchair in search of real human interaction instead.
Don’t get me wrong – he still does his time in front of the black box of doom, but it’s a negotiation. When he’s pleading for some Poppa Troll (you know, the show about the little rescue dogs), I ask him what will happen when it is turned off again.
‘‘I will try not to be sad or cry,’’ he replies obediently. ‘‘But I might forget,’’ he adds, as a sly disclaimer.
Sometimes, TV is the best thing ever. If he’s wound up, and I’m frantically trying to get tea ready or some work done, television is the perfect antidote. My partner winces when I tell him that I just needed Millan to calm down and switch his brain off for a little while, but I resolutely declare that it was one of those days when we both needed the magical touch of a few episodes of Octopus Prize.
You know, the one with the transforming robots.
The magical, hypnotic draw of the TV screen starts very early in life.