… or, “My Life Never Turns Out Quite Like I Planned.” Also, “It’s A Little Too Quiet, What Are They Doing Now?”
Prior to giving birth to two perfect little girls, I had many ideas of how perfect our perfect lives would be. One of the things I swore up and down I would do, had to do with how much screen time I would allow the children. They would definitely never watch more than an hour—per week! And it would only be shows that my spouse and I deemed educational, or with merit. Our logic went, if we never let them watch anything except what we let them, then how would they know to ask for anything else?
What ever are those vibrations? Could it be the combined laughter of those experienced toddler parents out there, admiring our goals? Possibly. They were lofty, perhaps a little naïve, but we do our best to balance them with the reality of keeping two little people alive—and also keeping a little bit of our sanity.
We do our best to place controls over what our kids watch—guided access on the phone, no YouTube, not letting them watch television unsupervised. We–and by “we”, I mean “me” as I’m also trying to get in my 2,000 words a day and plan a re-launch of my urban fantasy series–do our best, also, to re-direct and get the kids playing with their toys or each other. Sometimes it works.
Sometimes it doesn’t. What to do when they come to you with the need for attention and the desire to give theirs to the screen? Our oldest is currently in an obsession with a show that features puppies who talk and go on adventures, and so I’ve tried to come up with a few alternatives to watching the same thirteen downloaded episodes over and over.
- Let’s read your Talking Puppy Cartoon books! They’re about five pages each, and mostly consist of the characters saying their particular catchphrases—over and over. You do have four of them, so it seems like we’re reading a lot.
- I know! You can draw a picture of your Talking Puppy Cartoon friends! Sure, it looks like an early-period (and also crappy) Jackson Pollack, and there are marker stains on our upholstered chairs, but you’re happy and I didn’t have to listen to any characters’ monosyllabic catchphrases for the past twenty minutes.
- Take your Talking Puppy Cartoon doll for a walk. While it’s true that I’ll be the one doing the work as you ride in style with Ms. Plushie in the jog stroller I’ve never actually used for jogging—at least we’ll be out of the house. And maybe you’ll take a nap. Or not.
- Sit next to me as we put together your Talking Puppy Cartoon jigsaw puzzle that we got as a bonus gift at your dad’s work holiday party. True, your baby sister has gnawed on a few of the pieces, and you aren’t old enough to quite grasp the concept of a puzzle. So it’s mostly you being impatient all the time that I’m putting it together, but at least you aren’t in full-out screen time frenzy meltdown mode. And once it’s finished, you’ll admire it for a full ten seconds before getting bored.
- Play with your actual puppies. They don’t talk, but they’re fluffy and will give you love. And possibly some slobber. And yes, the Basset hound is a little stinky. But learning how to interact with pets is good for you, emotionally.
- Revisit your previous obsessions! There’s Purple Amulet Princess, Doll Starring as a Mermaid, the Let-it-Go Princess, and of course the multitude of Tiny Yellow Meepers. You’ve got the dress-up dresses, the stickers, and the coloring books, so spend five minutes with them. (Okay, just kidding about the dress. We never take that one off.)
- Do some art on the hand-made, wood-crafted, one-of-a-kind easel that your dad made for you with brass fittings from your great-grandmother’s old wicker storage chest. That’s family history right there, kid. Appreciate it. And while we’re at it, don’t drop the chalk on the floor, because your sister likes to eat it.
- Let’s read some more books! No, not the Talking Puppy Cartoon books. Other books. Oh, okay. Talking Puppy Cartoon books it is…
- Build something with that giant bag of megablocks your mom thought it would be a good idea to get for you. Or throw them around the room and spend a half hour crying because I told you to pick them up. That works, too.
- You know what, baby girl? I’m going to let you watch your Talking Puppy Cartoons while I sob softly into my well-researched library of parenting books. Because I have a deadline, three piles of laundry, and a desperate need for a small glass of wine. Tomorrow, we’ll start again.