Being a parent requires tough skin – not from the tantrums and snot and those super sharp fingernails that toddlers have – but from the pressure of doing things the right way in other parent’s eyes. And one of these is the large amount of guilt that is placed on you for allowing your child to watch TV. From the studies that say that it damages your child’s brain* to being judged by other mothers like.. say.. MICHELLE OBAMA!
Who knew that Dash the Donkey was carrying one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
A parenting book that I read in the first few months of the ‘what the f**k am I doing’ panic that accompanies new parenthood said that it was ok to watch TV as long as you never use it to babysit your children. I will now point out just three of many examples that prove this page of the book should be ripped out and used to wipe your newly potty trained toddlers bum.
1) Have you ever tried to cook dinner with small children? Sorry forgot my audience there of course you do you fellow parenting nutbags. I am fairly certain that any damage 10 minutes of unaccompanied TV time can do, is slightly less than a pan full of boiling peas.
2) If you are brave enough to have multiple children there is no way you can survive those first few weeks of having a tiny little bub permanently sealed to your chest or a bottle without the remote control being no further than 2 cm away from your fingers at any one time.
3) Then there are the times when you are tired – physically and mentally. The times when you don’t feel like you anymore and actually a little bit lost. The times when if the TV doesn’t go on just to give you twenty minutes of head space and the time to have a cup of tea and a biscuit then you’ll stop being someone you like. You’ll start being the narky mum with the shrill voice that we all try to keep the lid firmly on. Because having her around does no good for you or your kidderoos.
And what we should remember is – kids TV is brilliant! It’s a vibrant, fun, interesting and – yes god damn it – educational font of awesomeness for your children. My oldest could say hello in 6 languages by the time he was three (lingo show) – I’m not sure I can do that at my current thirty and some years age. At the age of four he can spot the difference between an Allosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus by the amount of FINGERS they have (Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures). In my house we have a guessing game where we take it in turns to describe an animal and then everyone guesses what it is – every adult there groans when he starts off with ‘This animal lives under the sea’.
What the f**k even is a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish?! I don’t have a scooby but I bet bloody know it all Shellington does.
This is not bragging as I can take literally no credit for any of this. Everything I know is from Google – I outsource my general knowledge. He knows it all in his own tiny little head. Because it has been poured there by ridiculously clever people who know how make lovely things.
My best friend is from Northern Ireland, she lives there with her Northern Irish husband, surrounded by her Northern Irish family and yet her oldest daughter’s first words were delivered with a pitch perfect English accent. And that is because Peppa Pig can take a fair amount of credit for teaching her to speak. Don’t even be tempted to judge! Her parents are clever, articulate people (well, until about 3 drinks in anyway) who speak a lot and did not abandon their child in front of the TV. She had access to it in a very balanced way with lots of other activities and she was a reeeeallly early talker. Peppa Pig just grabbed her like the dayglo piece of toddler crack that it is and you know what kids learn when they love something.
Yes it requires a common sense approach – too much of anything is never good for you. And the content isn’t perfect – I wish there were more fun, interesting and rough and tough girl characters rather than the usual Tillys, Sofias and Rosies who’s key objective is to look after everyone else and be helpful and nice. But there remains nothing as joyous as a rainy afternoon cuddled on the sofa seeing Toy Story again through the eyes of your children. And it is these shared experiences that define me as a parent just as much as the time I spend teaching phonics or pushing swings.
*Please click through and read this whole article not just the headline. My favourite quote is from Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University who says that the arguments of the author of the study ‘could equally well be used to conclude that children should not read books.’