Tuning out for little prizes and lots of pride

By Karrie McAllister

Before me sits an ominous piece of paper. Actually, two pieces of paper, one for each child. My heart knows that we need to sign them and follow through with what we pledge, but my head thinks I’ve completely lost my mind and in one week’s time there’s a good chance that I might be totally bald from pulling my hair out.
Today, April 23, 2007, marks the beginning of a week-long challenge. Seven very long days of no background noise or animations. It is TV Turnoff Week.
We are no stranger to the television. I fully admit that my children watch plenty of it. In fact, in their innocence and total incomprehension of time, they ask me how long one hour is.
“Two TV shows,” I answer.
And sadly, they understand.
I am not unlike other mothers who use the TV to help rear my youngsters. I carefully choose the most educational programs that I can, but all too often I am pleading with them ever so nicely to “SIT DOWN and WATCH YOUR SHOW so I can get something done!!!” Not one of my better parenting moments.
On goes the TV, and for a short while, no one is fighting and I can hear myself think.
But there are times, too, when I catch them playing games and reenacting their favorite characters, and I think that TV isn’t all that bad. Their creative sides get a nice boost, and some shows even help teach things like vocabulary and manners.
It comes to no surprise that for me, the television is a rather bittersweet electronic device.
But a couple of days ago, I realized that it was getting a little more bitter than sweet when my daughter sat and colored and sang, “Sunnyside, Sunny will save you money!” And then, not but a few hours later, my son broke into another advertising jingle.
Oh no. Not only has TV programming rotted their brains, now it’s commercials, too!
So it was with good fortune that I found that TV Turnoff Week was coming up soon, and even better that one of my family’s favorite stores was offering prizes for days when the mighty picture box was ignored. Children simply sign their names on that ominous paper that they will pledge to have TV-free days, and trade cartoons for goodies.
It’s amazing what they’ll do for a little piece of plastic.
Meanwhile, while they are daydreaming about all of their earnings, I’m in a full-panic sweat wondering how we’re going to survive an entire week without my best rectangular babysitter.
I’m going to have to pull every last thing out of my bag of tricks to keep my children happy, only because I’m afraid that without the hum of PBS in the background, my family room will be less like a media room and more like a wrestling ring.
Not only that, but I can already feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, thinking about how many times I’m going to hear those three terrible words: Mom, I’m booorrrred.
Did I mention that I’m not allowed to watch anything either?
So while their trading their cartoons, I’m trading my sanity.
But they get prizes. What do I get?
I’m hoping I get to spend some focused quality time with my family. I’m hoping to make crafts and play board games and build forts and sing songs—basically all that good stuff that gets lost with the remote control.
I’m also hoping to be able to say with pride that, while the battle was rough, we prevailed in the mighty challenge of TV Turnoff Week.
I’m hoping my kids realize that they are actually allowed to play by themselves without fighting, without the aid of the television, and that they are proud of their accomplishment.
But in reality, I’m just hoping to survive. If this column isn’t in the paper next week, you’ll know why.


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