(by Mir from WouldaShoulda)
Kids today, man, there is no end to the ways we're screwing them up. And no sooner have you hit upon yet another thing that's wrong than someone comes along to talk about the "good old days" when kids could pretty much do whatever they wanted as long as they showed up back at home for meals and remembered to wash their hands. Apparently back in the good old days, kids played outside, worked out their differences without parental involvement, and were everything from more creative to more robust overall.
Me, I didn't have that sort of upbringing. We lived on the outskirts of town, and didn't really have a neighborhood. I read a lot of books. I also watched a lot of television. Okay, let's be perfectly honest here—I watched an obscene amount of television. It wasn't unusual for me to get home from school and turn on the television and watch for a couple of hours, then eat dinner in front of it, then watch a favorite show (or two) before bed. And back then we didn't have DVRs or even, for most of my childhood, VCRs, so that meant if you wanted to watch cartoons you got up on Saturday morning to watch them. I not only got up early to watch cartoons, I watched them while munching on Count Chocula or Cookie Crisp. We had 13 channels and I could always find something to watch (unlike now, when we have 200+ channels and nothing's on).
As a parent myself, now, I'm supposed to tell you how awful it was that I was allowed to rot my brain and my teeth that way. (Actually my teeth are fine. Hooray for fluoridated water, I guess.) Nowadays we have countless studies and media outlets available to explain to us how a childhood such as mine should've yielded an adult who could barely dress herself, much less capable of independent and productive thought. And yet… here I am. I'm wearing pants and everything.
It's a conundrum for me, because I truly do believe there's a "better" way now that we know more. I limit my kids' screen time (or course nowadays there's many more screens to worry about—everything from television to computers to video games and even e-readers), and when they do settle down in front of the TV, there's a lot more in the way of educational programming than I remember from when I was a kid. With the DVR there's no need to get up early to watch cartoons, of course, though sometimes my son gets up early on a Saturday just so that he can enjoy a show or two while everyone else is asleep. Still, he's more likely to be caught munching on homemade granola than the sugar cereals of my youth while he's doing it.
So many of the shows and convenience foods that make up the memories of my youth are things my kids will never experience. They'll never watch reruns of "Welcome Back Kotter" while eating Spaghetti-Os. And that's a good thing, I guess? Instead they'll (much less frequently) maybe have memories of watching "Mythbusters" while eating homemade pizza. Maybe they'll remember that fondly; maybe they won't remember it at all.
Does that make me a hypocrite when I try to convince my kids to go outside and play instead of vegetating in front of a screen, or insist they eat a balanced meal instead of junk? Or can I reassure myself that it's all about moderation? It's hard to know. As I started thinking about this and I know I'm forgetting some of the shows I used to watch religiously, but the number that I can remember is still sort of embarrassing. I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode of "The Brady Bunch" multiple times. I loved "Good Times" and "One Day At a Time" and "Three's Company" and countless others. I'm almost amazed I ever did anything other than watch television.
So I try to do "better" by my kids, and encourage them not to zone out as often as I used to. It works, sometimes. Not always. And it's hard for me to worry about it too much, because I turned out okay, I think. And despite being a semi-productive member of society, flopping on the couch in front of some mindless Prime-Time programming is still my favorite way to decompress.
Do you worry about the television you and/or your kids watch? Should I be worried that I could've won a Nobel Prize by now if only I hadn't sacrificed all of those brain cells to 70s sitcoms? And will you tell me your favorite show from childhood if you were a junkie like me?
(get more Mir here)