As promised, here is the chapter on TV from my mom’s book. I’m tempted to introduce it with lots of my own thoughts and convictions (and even confessions!) on the subject, but that would defeat the purpose of posting it. It speaks for itself and it captures, I think, the struggle many of us face ~ not only with the TV, but with all things “screen.” I love my mom’s balanced conclusion and find myself challenged to “be in control” of all of our media options. I hope you find it helpful as well.
WHO’S INFLUENCING MY CHILDREN?
by Miriam Huffman Rockness (1979)
“Can we watch TV, Mom?” David sets his books and lunch box on the high chair and looks at me with bright hope and expectancy. It never fails to amaze me how he faithfully asks this question that through the years has been consistently answered in the negative.
“Not until four o’clock, honey.”
“You know we never watch TV right after school. This is your time to play.” I answer with what strikes me, under the circumstances, as a monumental show of patience.
“Everyone watches TV after school.”
“That’s right,” echoes Kimberly. “Everyone.”
“I doubt that,” I respond, measuring each word carefully. “But even if they did, you know that isn’t how we make our decisions.”
“I’ll choose a good program that won’t scare Kimberly and Jonathan.”
“The programs aren’t bad, Mommy,” Kimberly adds.
“I know the programs aren’t bad, but I just don’t think anything is on now that is that good.” I go on to explain how precious time is, how many good things there are to do. We limit TV because we want them to live life, not just sit back and watch others live life.
David and Kimberly look up at me with expressions that simulate total incomprehension. David shrugs his shoulder and says, “C’mon, Kimberly, let’s go ride our bikes.”
Am I too strict? I ask myself. There is nothing in the programs they are pushing for that is harmful. After a busy day in school, shouldn’t they just be free to sit back and be entertained for a while? I review our policy: They have a daily block of time set aside for their choice of several pre-determined programs. We check the TV guide for specials which we attempt to make a shared family time. Then there are their morning fragments of “Captain Kangaroo.” No, in proportion to their other activities, they see plenty of television!
I begin to bristle that I let myself be put into a defensive position. I’m convinced we approach the whole thing from the wrong angle – if it’s not bad, it’s OK we allow, rather than choosing from the enormous smorgasbord of programs that which is edifying and good. By default, we’ve let the question become “Why not?” rather than “Why?” making it a matter of acquiescence rather than choice.
I mount my soapbox and continue to build a defense of our position. I think of the vast number of messages our children are subjected to, input that is shaping their thinking and in turn their character. I am realistic; I can’t put blinders on my children, and even if I could, I wouldn’t. TV is only one of the many voices that shout their conflicting messages, that have something to say about everything. But it happens to be one influence I can still control. There is so much at stake. When you cut through it all – the mundane activities surrounding mothering – my deepest concern is the kind of people our children are becoming. They cannot help but be influenced by the values that bombard them. Values so often in conflict with what we are trying to stress; the importance of the inner man, the person we really are – in a word, character.
I don’t want to tune out other messages altogether. I just want to keep up with their input so I can help them learn to be discerning. I will not always be able to screen their TV input, but I refuse to abdicate my filtering role while my children are still so moldable simply because of their demands, or because it is expedient for me.
By now I am gesturing eloquently from my soapbox and am becoming increasingly possessed with a desire to dismount and rip the TV from its life line on the wall. Show it a thing or two. But I begin to cool as I consider how it has enriched our lives: the concerts we’ve enjoyed in the comfort of our sitting room, our trips to faraway lands, the exposure to values and life-styles of another time and place, drama that has carried our emotions the full gamut – together . . . When I hear Jonathan count to thirteen, I have to admit he didn’t learn his numbers from me! So I kick my soapbox aside, and reassume a more realistic posture, that of a mother simply trying to make decisions that will be in the best interest of her family.
No, like most everything else, the TV is not inherently good or evil. It holds the potential for either. The fundamental issue is, who is in control? The TV? Or are we in control? I believe it places far too great a burden on the grade school child to have to make these quality-of-life decisions. As parents, we will continue to assume the responsibility of determining the amount of time spent watching TV and the kind of programs watched. We will continue to allow our children choices within our choices, knowing the day will come when they must exercise their own judgement. I would hope by then we will have established a pattern of selection that will provide a kind inner monitoring for their own positive choices.
*This exerpt from my mom’s book, Keep These Things, Ponder Them in Your Heart, is posted in response to my previous post, “Out of Touch.” Without a TV for one week (yes, that doesn’t seem long, but it was…trust me!), I had plenty of time to ponder the role of TV (and all things “screen”) in our home. It also gave me a chance to appreciate the value of being “out of touch” and how this truly allows us to actually be in touch with our inner lives…our soul. And our Creator. If you enjoyed this post, I’d love for you to read that one, too. Just click here.