By Lyz Lenz
I begin my days between five and six in the morning. I get up, run, shower and pump the old boobs (if I have time before the baby gets up). Then, while I feed her, we watch the Today Show. It’s a little tradition I started six months ago, when I was up early and feeling a little depressed about constantly seeing the sun rise. A little smattering of news is a nice way to start the day and it keeps me up-to-date on world events, before we head out the door to the baby sitter’s and I start work.
I never thought twice about this routine, until I noticed that my baby was watching the news too. Now, I see her little blue eyes soak in every image. When I put her in her high chair, she cranes her neck to stare at the television. She knows what’s going on and it’s a little terrifying.
I grew up in a strictly no-TV environment. Neither of my parents watched the morning news and, if they watched the evening news, it was after we went to bed. Only on rare occasion (like my mom was too sick to crawl out of bed) were my siblings and I allowed to watch cartoons or PBS. And despite how culturally disconnected it made me feel in high school, I love that one of the gifts my parents gave me was a life free of the looming specter of the television. And I want the same for my daughter.
But here I am, every morning, raising my baby on the dulcet tones of Matt Lauer and it’s making me feel guilty.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning that has parents everywhere up in arms. The recommendation asserts that parents should limit the amount of screen time that children under the age of two are exposed to. This recommendation is actually a softening of their earlier position which advised a strict no-television diet. According to The New York Times, “The pediatricians’ group softened its stance not because of new research or an actual change in thinking, but because of pressure from parents and fellow physicians who simply found the earlier recommendations to be so unrealistic as to have no value.”
I understand the desire to put the baby in front of the TV. On the mornings when my baby is up at 5am with me and I don’t get my run in, or I have to bring her into the bathroom with me while I jump in the shower, it’s tempting just to put her in her jumper and turn on “Wonder Pets” and do my hair. It’s easier. But I wonder if that’s a cop out. My mom raised eight kids without the assistance of the television in the morning and her hair always looked great. I only have one. So, what’s my problem?
And to be fair, I don’t judge people for using the TV as an aide to get some time to themselves. But I do wonder if having children who need to be entertained is a problem that our society has created. By using the TV in the morning am I creating a child who can only be distracted by the TV? If I don’t do the hard thing and insist that she play independently now, am I raising a child who will be incapable of playing independently later on?
I don’t know the answers. But I do know that I’m going to turn on NPR in the mornings instead of the Today Show. No offense to Matt Lauer.
What’s your stance on TV before two?
About the Author:
Lyz Lenz is a writer, a mom and a midwesterner. Although, not in that order. She lives in Iowa and on the web at LyzLenz.com