My youngest son woke up this morning at 6:00 and demanded chips, would not be consoled with cereal. I put him off with a Blue’s Clues DVD. But it made me think of one of my stranger memories about TV, strange mostly because of how disconnected it is:

I think it must have been when I was in either first or second grade. But there was a kid I always fought with. I don’t know why we fought, or what we fought about. I don’t remember fighting him, or anything much else about him. But when I saw him coming at me from across the playground, I knew it was on, and I started powering up. I’m not sure what powering up involved, but it must have looked very threatening, because he put his hands up and said he wasn’t here to fight. I stood down.

Instead, he wanted to talk about culture. Have you ever seen The Snorks? he asked. I said I hadn’t. He told me it was a great show and that I should try it. It came on at 4:00 in the morning. I was intrigued, and so I tried it. I got up at 4:00 the next morning, turned the TV on, and there was the show, which I have loved ever since..

There is so much to this story that doesn’t make sense! If I didn’t know that The Snorks was a real TV show, with episodes I still remember, I would doubt that any of the story was true. First of all, I don’t remember anything else about the guy who told me about the show. I don’t know how we knew each other. We weren’t in the same class at school. I don’t remember ever talking to him again.

I very precisely remember that the show was on weekdays at 4:00 am. I’m sure this stuck out to me because watching the show necessitated getting up before my parents did, which is a kind of sly thing to do. But it creates problems in my memory. I remember the time, and I remember being told the time, and I remember thinking that 4 am was a weird time for a children’s cartoon. How many kids are up at 4:00? But there it was. Proof that my friend was my friend, because he was telling the truth instead playing of a weird practical joke on me. What I don’t remember was him telling me what channel the show was on. Yet I found it. I’m also pretty sure I didn’t have an alarm clock at that age. I have no idea how I contrived to get up at the right time. I suspect I used the tried old method of looking at a clock before going to bed, and deciding to wake up at the appointed time. It’s worked for me on occasion.

Equally strange for me, looking back, is that we had a working TV at all. My mom was notorious for not having a working TV when we were growing up. On several occasions, grandparents intervened, and either bought us a TV, or paid for cable, so that we wouldn’t grow up deprived like that. But when the TV broke, or the subscription ceased, we were back to no video at all. But at that time, apparently we had cable, and I was able to get up at 4 in the morning and watch whatever came to mind.

My kids – probably not. We gots TV, but no cable, and no Netflix. But lots of purchased movies and TV. Theoretically, any kid could get up at an ungodly hour and sit down to watch a pre-approved TV show, but currently nobody ever gets up all that early. And if they did, it wouldn’t be incognito. I’m still getting up most days close to 4 am.

I’ve found a solution

For a long time now, I’ve disparaged families who are so negligent as to “use the TV as a babysitter.” I had my reasons:

* TV are stuupid. Television is designed to pitch to the widest possible audience. In part, this is usually accomplished by also pitching to the lowest common denominator. This means that most television, even movies is noticeably lacking in any kind of content which might require an attention span. But people only mature and become capable of working with more complex information by being regularly exposed to stuff that is beyond what they’re actually used to. You don’t improve in anything unless you have to struggle a bit. Since TV constantly pitches low, a regular diet of television makes you dumb.

* TV are annoying. Young children are geared toward repetition and memorization. Which means that, even if you find a way to expose your kids only to “smart TV,” they’re going to want to be watching it a great deal more than an adult is quite prepared to tolerate. I don’t care how much better than the standard fare Thomas the Tank Engine is. It’s not good enough for me to have to memorize it. And I don’t know that I want my kids memorizing it either. OK. Maybe Veggie Tales songs. But I have limits.

Unfortunately, ideals are all wonderful until you encounter real life, in which a child requires a great deal of stimulation. Continue reading “I’ve found a solution”