Friday, April 16, 2010

Alas, the emptiness of a home without kids' movies

This morning at the mall, as we headed to our special bench to eat our Dunkin Donuts sandwich, one of the mallwalkers stopped to talk to us. She was amused by AwesomeCloud's eager but unsteady gait. Apparently it reminded her of penguins.

"Have you seen that movie about the penguins?" she asked me. "They walk a little bit like that."

"March of the Penguins!" I said. Hey, I don't completely live under a rock.

"Yeah! Has he seen it? He'd love it! It's so funny!" she said.

I shook my head as we sat on the bench. "He hasn't watched any movies yet," I told her.

She seemed rather surprised. "No? No movies at all?"

"Well," I explained, "He's only two. There's plenty of time."

"My [friend's granddaughter, cousin's daughter, something like that], she's older now, but when she was about a year old she'd go right up to the TV and put her hands on it, like this, and just stare and stare."

"Oh dear," I said sympathetically. "I'm in no hurry for TV. There's plenty of time for that."

"Doesn't he watch anything?" the woman asked.

I shook my head. "We don't have cable, and although we have a few movies, we haven't pulled them out yet."

"You know what you should get? Nexflix."

"Ummm," I said. "I don't think we'd get enough use out of that at the moment."

"No, it's great!" she insisted.

"I just... we don't really do stuff like that."

"Oh. I do it every day," she announced, and then hurried off at mallwalking speed.

I think what's going on here is framing. If you watch a lot of TV and movies, then your outlook on life will be framed by TV and movies. That's okay. That's the human psyche in action. However, if someone chooses a different approach to life, their outlook will be framed differently.

My world has been framed by the internet for a few years now - the internet is my TV, except largely text-based (I prefer articles to YouTube videos) and I get to participate with my blog and by leaving comments. I enjoy the interactive, entertainment-at-my-own-pace dynamics better than I enjoy the TV unfolding obliviously before me.

Nowadays, my world is also framed by a toddler's-view discovery of the small things in life. Playing "Stop... Go!" in the driveway has supplanted 10-second McDonald's commercials. Instead of training myself to be aware of just the right moment to reach for the remote, I've been trained to watch for that little hand grabbing for me. It's different, but largely equivalent, and it's where my head needs to be at this time.

I've also allowed books to frame my world this year. My goal is to read 50 books in a year, and I've finished 18 or so already. Most of them are memoirs or ecological nonfiction, with a few thin novels by H.P. Lovecraft thrown in. (Sometimes I need a quickie to keep my numbers up.) I have to say that all these books have affected the way I think. I've never been good at having an idle mind. And challenging myself with bold new ideas mitigates a little of the tediousness of the hours spent watching how a ball rolls just so down the sidewalk.

And when I really must watch moving pictures... did you know PBS puts every episode of Frontline on their website? It's a treasure trove of stimulating and sometimes shocking education. (Watch The Suicide Tourist if you can - my friend Ivan's parents are in it.) I'm also a loyal follower of TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.

I'm not morally opposed to TV in general, or of my son watching it specifically. I just feel it's okay to be enamoured with other things. There's plenty of time for cartoons and Disney. We'll pull out the kids' movies someday. We just haven't yet.


  1. As a fan of both TV and books, I heartily agree with you! I enjoy story, both in book and film, but would agree that he is not missing out on anything if he doesn't watch TV or movies yet...or ever. I'm sure one could function quite nicely without it. We did for several years, now we don't. Go ahead and be enamored with whatever you like...not that you need my permission. ;-) GRIN.

    I didn't know you were working towards 50 books in a year. I am participating in the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. I'm sure you are reading much weightier books than I, but I'm enjoying myself too. Reading is good. :-D

  2. Books are great fun, and I enjoy TV too.. I walk a far bit although I find it hard to sit and watch and not be doing something craft or work or on laptop at the same time.

    I agree with you though that for kids, it shouldnt be all about the TV.. He is so young, he wouldnt sit for a movie yet anyway surely! I hate people who use TV as a babysitter.. much rather play with kids myself. I'm sure if I was a parent though I'd use it more!!!

  3. I didn't know about your 52 books either, Lori. That's pretty funny. And yeah, it's true that my choice of reading material is not geared toward quick'n'easy very often. (Except the Lovecraft stuff, but it took me a week to read a 120-page Lovecraft novel, so I guess its brevity was deceptive.)

    Kel, I thought the same thing - that when I had a kid, I'd lose my resolve to avoid letting him watch TV and start relying on it. That turned out not to be the case. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  4. Amen sista......books over tv!!!!