September 28, 2011

My Daughters, The Ones With The (Remote) Control

I wrote and re-wrote the first sentence of this blog entry no less than eight times in an effort to try to word what I wanted to say in such a fashion that would not have someone call Child Services on me.  As it is, I know that this entry is going to make me look like a bad parent.  Allow me to begin with the following:

I have great amounts of respect for people who were able raise well-balanced, happy children without the use of violence and before the invention of television.

Sara and I try to limit the amount of television that the girls watch.  While Brynn would be happy to watch a multi-colored strobe light that would send anyone into fits of epilepsy, Harper requires some sort of programming.  We have been sticking to two things.  The primary tele-caregiver is Sprout, the 24-hour pre-school channel (do I have enough hyphens in this sentence?)  The shows are all short, under 15 minutes and are all based in pseudo-education, focusing on numbers, letters, activities and life lessons, such as "take turns" and "don't bite your friends."  The other show she likes is Sesame Street, or more specifically, Elmo, which, if I have to describe to benefits of that, then I need you to post a comment about how you get internet at the rock under which you live.  This is quality programming.

Look how easy it is to justify sticking my toddler in front of a television.  It's a little more difficult when she comes home from day care and plops herself in front of the TV and looks at me and says "beebee?"  Or when trying to put Harper down to bed, she asks us to rock her and sing to her and when asked what she wants us to sing, she replies with "na na na Elmo."  Her favorite bedtime song is Elmo's Song.

Don't worry.  I think I may do a post soon with all of my favorite Elmo videos, most of which include celebrities.

Before you judge me too harshly, please read on.  For those of you who are parents, please prepare your mouths to utter the words "Well, duh!"  For those of you who are not, I have some information that may come as a bit of a shock.

Parenting is tough.  ("Well, duh" say my parent readers.)  It is tough in ways that I never would have imagined.

When you think about becoming a parent, you romanticize the entire process.  You think that the tough decisions will be things like "How do I talk to my child about drugs/sex/drinking/anythingfunthatIdon'twantthemdoing?" and "How do I plan to instill the proper values in my child?" and "Do I dress her in the blue dress with the jean shorts or the red top and matching pants?"

You spend hours discussing how you will mold them into citizens of the world, how you will teach them to appreciate the arts.  You say things like "My child isn't going to watch any TV" and "We're going to do family outings to the museum" and "Look at that child rolling around on the floor of the restaurant!  What awful parents he must have!  I would never let my child act that way!"

Then you have kids and you find yourself saying things like "We would love to come to the party but we don't have the mental strength to fight the battle of the car seat" and "Go watch Elmo.  Daddy has to poop" and "Please get up off of the restaurant floor before everyone here thinks we are bad parents."  Then you have all of the questions that you never thought you would ever ask, like "How did you get peanut butter inside your sock?" and "Your sister does not go in the dishwasher" and "Why are you chewing on a diaper?"  Christ, I hope it was unused.

You think that your child is going to be Jonathan Lipnicky from "Jerry Maguire" in that he/she will be precocious and cute and say adorable things like "The human head weighs eight pounds."  Perhaps you are one of the few realistic people who knows that there will be cute times, but there will also be projectile vomit and walls smeared with feces and tantrums.  What you do not expect is what actually happens.  You expect that you will be getting up at all hours to soothe a crying child.  What you do not expect is that that child needs to be soothed because they are covered in urine and grape jelly.  Where did that sandwich even come from??

You find yourself in absurd situations.  You find yourself still in your work clothes, cooking dinner, frantically eviscerating vegetables in ways that might be in violation of international law, knowing that you have a limited amount of time before your child remembers that you exist and comes wandering into the room, placing themselves in the most inconvenient spot possible and begins to scream incoherently while pointing around the kitchen.

"What do you want?  This?" you ask, while gesturing wildly with a kitchen knife.

Picture yourself standing with a friend in the nosebleed section of a baseball stadium.  Suddenly, your friend points onto the field and says "Look at that guy!"  With 10 players and 3 umpires, it takes very little time to narrow down and figure out who is talking about.  You could ask questions like "On the left side?" "On our team, or the visitors?" or "At which position."  When you figure out who he is talking about, you can have a good laugh, or cry, or whatever is appropriate, together.

Trying to identify what your child is talking about in the kitchen is very similar, except that, instead of pointing to the field, your friend is pointing into the stands, filled with 70,000 people.  Instead of being able to ask pointed questions, you get to ask "That guy?" while pointing in the general direction.  Instead of having a calm resolution like "Yeah!  Look at his hat!" once you have pinpointed the person he is talking about, your friend screams at the top of his lungs and points in another direction entirely.

Or he just storms out of the kitchen to dig his fingers into your unattended chap-stick.

In short, I do my parenting much the way I play chess.  I go into it with a grand plan feeling that I could beat a good number of players.  I quickly find myself out maneuvered and after 2 moves have switched to an entirely defensive strategy.

It is for these reasons, your honor, and because sometimes you just have to go to the bathroom, that I do occasionally use the television to babysit my children.

But I swear, I never inhale.

Now cute pictures to make you forget what a bad parent I am.

We win the "War on Car Seats" by losing the "War on Drugs."



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