Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Wretched Stone

Disclaimer:  This is my opinion.  For my family.  Not a you really should... or a if you were really godly you would...  for anybody else.  And if it makes you feel better, I'm the minority in my own house.  
All righty?  All righty.

The TV and I have an interesting relationship.  I'd prefer that we were just casual acquaintances and not intimate friends.  But the TV is persistent.  It seems to pursue us, enticing my family to spend time with it, crowding out other, better activities.  It's a sticky, clingy friend that demands attention at inopportune times.  And I would really rather it lived somewhere else, at a distance, so I could visit at my discretion.

We've never actually bought a TV, though we've owned three.  (Not simultaneously.)  And before you think I'm all high and mighty, let me tell you how thrilled I remember being to find a box of Winnie the Pooh vids at a garage sale for 50 cents apiece.  I was pregnant with Tate or Gunnar, and they were the perfect length to pop in the VCR, plunk down the older kid/s, and take a power-nap on the couch while they were happily sedated entertained.  Hallelujah.  You do what you've gotta do, yah?  So I'm no purist.


Even when the boys could only watch videos or the one channel we received - and believe me I've seen my life's quota of Veggie Tales, and reruns of Blue's Clues and Bill Nye the Science Guy - the boys were hooked.  So hooked that when they were 6, 4, and nearly 2 and the TV broke, little Gunnar would sit forlornly in front of the space where the TV had been and ask, pitifully, for Pooh Bear.

But he got over it.  And it was spring and the boys were outside a lot.  And they adapted.  It was great!  And why buy a new one?  We were selling our house and moving.  Fresh start.  Hurray.

Then late that fall we were given another TV.

Okay, I can handle this.  The boys aren't used to having a TV.  It will be easy to manage their screen time.  You'd think.  But with Wyatt off to 1st grade, and Tate at a 1/2 day HoH preschool three times a week, Gunnar was lonely... and so it went.

And it escalated.  Of course.  And we let it.

Until the time we decided to homeschool.  Which, in our house, does not mean sitting around a screen all day watching "educational programming."  And it was hard.

But funny thing about that TV.  It had a habit of breaking.  Suddenly it just wouldn't work.  The boys would go into a tizzy and make wild guesses about how much it would cost to repair or replace, and I would shoot them all down.

Read my lips:  Not.  One.  Penny.

Pray about it.  If God wants you to have a TV, He'll take care of it.  And a few days later, the TV would start working again.  No kidding. Happened several times.

But I never prayed about the TV.

And then one Sunday a friend was preaching, in place of the regular pastor.  He worked with youth, and talked about how saturated they were with technology.  Plugged in all the time.  Texting people just feet away from them.

Certainly, technology can be a blessing.  He - like my son - wears hearing aids.  And think of computers, yah?  But it can all distract us from better things and isolate us from real life, and real relationships.

I don't remember what he was actually preaching on, (sorry Steve!), but he said something along these lines
If you wonder if some particular gadget hinders you, if it's more of a curse than a blessing to you, ask God - if He doesn't want you to have it - to break it.
Okay.  So I prayed about the TV.

And it broke.  It really broke.  A totally blank screen and some alarming buzzy electrical noises convinced us all that this was The Big One.

So we did what quick-thinking homeschoolers do and took it out into the driveway, handed out safety goggles, and let the boys have at it. 

Did you know that old TVs have a vacuum inside and will implode when you drop a heavy rock on them from the top of a step-ladder?  And it's really loud?  And sounds just like an explosion?  Oh well, the neighbors probably think we're nuts anyway.  I mean, we homeschool.

I was happy as a clam.  The boys were forced into more creative play and reading, and I didn't have to follow through on a ridiculously complicated system of the boys earning tickets to buy screen time.  And in a pinch we can watch DVDs on the computers.  Win-win!

And that went on happily for quite awhile.

Until someone-who-shall-remain-nameless went behind my back and got an enormous TV that had been rejected from his dad's rental.  And put a scratch in van door getting it.  And the remote had been lost so there was no way to work it (so he had to buy a new remote), and the sound didn't work so there was no way to hear it (so he had to buy speakers, which were lousy, and very challenging for Tate to comprehend).  And did I mention it was huge?  Also, it had a very special several-minutes-long selection from The Museum of Static it insisted on playing every time it was turned on.  Very nice.

And in spite of promises that it would stay in the garage and only come in for special occasions, it was soon installed in the family room along with a contraband PS2.

And maybe your kids enjoy playing games together and have no problem turning it off when their allotted time is up, and get along marvelously.  Mine do not.  Video-gaming brings out the worst in them.  It starts with negotiating and then the tension and the voices rise, and it escalates into bickering, yelling, occasional tears, and sometimes even physical violence.


And then I remembered.  And started praying about it again.

And guess what happened again...

Lastly, if you disagree with me about TV... feel free.

But if you're curious, I dare you to go to your library and check out The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and read it.

Go on.  I double-dog-dare-ya.


Cathy M. said...

My children are grown and flown and all of my parenting failures are "in the books" so to speak. My one enormous regret is not doing a better job of controlling media consumption. Even my children have said they intend to be much more strict when they are parents. I encourage you to continue fighting the good fight.

The dB family said...

You get no arguments from me. We do have a tv, but it is on only to watch the occasional DVD, for the olympics and world cup soccer, and when they play the WII which is rare these days. Oddly enough, there are rarely fights about who plays when and what game when the WII is in action. Perhaps because it's one boy and three girls? When they were younger though, that's a different story. It was a great babysitter!

I want to do your driveway experiment! It sounds like great fun!


leah said...

Oh, the TV. We have one, my kids watch it in the afternoons, and it has been a lifesaver when I need to mop the floors, etc. On the other hand, it is definitely a "zone-out" place for my kiddos. The good news: we have so many activities (with school, ice skating, and swimming lessons), that it isn't on very much anymore.

Don't get me started on the wii. I really don't like the thing. Dennis and I disagree on it, but every time Matt gets near it, there are tears, tantrums, etc. I say a nightly prayer about breaking the wii. Fortunately, I think Daddy is coming around to my side on the issue, after watching Matt have a completely insane meltdown when it was time to stop playing. is wonderful. Mario Kart, not so much.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Leah - it's a lake, but we're near the ocean also (can't see it from our house).

And really - my view on the TV is largely related to how MY kids respond to screen time. Some kids obviously handle it a lot better :D

And I DO let them have screen time. I don't want it to be oh-so-very-enticing because it's completely forbidden at home.

*sigh* It's finding the balance that's tricky.

Felicity said...

Well, we don't have a TV full stop!! I just don't want one. We have enough to control with the computers in the house, which are good for internet and DVD's and PC games etc.
I won't show my boys these photos as I'm sure they'd start waiting till anything seems like it's not working....

melanie said...

Great post, Julie!

I'm guessing most of your readers are more selective about what programming they allow - if they have a TV. (And yes, we have one but we didn't buy it. But we had to PAY to get rid of the previous one, but that's another story...) And someone else gave us the idiotic little black converter box so we can watch a few channels.

Anyway, why I am here is to share my DH's comment about TV since his return from Prague (where he had daily preaching and very little computer time and zero TV)...

Something about how we (Americans/Christians/whatever category he had in mind) would NEVER want SEWAGE piped into our homes, yet we can bring much worse in via the television. (and the computer would also apply since the i-net is an easy trap too)

Nuff said?

Yes, balance is tricky ~ the devil would have us OFF either way.

(Sorry, once again should have written a post instead of commenting? espec since I could say even more ;-) ...quitting now...)

Deanna said...

We have two TV's in our house but use them only for DVDs from the library and netflix. I have to say what I miss the least about TV is all the commercials. Daisy was watching TV at her Gran's house recently and came buzzing to me about the lastest thing she had to have. I'm so thankful that we don't fight THAT battle, even if I have to tell her 20 times a day that the TV is off for the day!

Rachael Starke said...

One of the surprise blessings of the girls' school is that it leaves them with time for only homework, racing to play with their favorite toy/fun reading, soccer, and meals. In that order.

But I'm with you on the Wii thing!! I have a Facebook friend who made this sweet comment about how she loves to hear her sons playing Mario Kart with their Dad because he is so patient and stops to help them figure things out and they're all just so cute together, and I thought "WHAT? That actually happens??" Because, at our house, notsomuch. And to be honest, I'm the same when it's just Phil and I playing (yes, my husband and I occasionally play Wii when it's just the two of us. We're wierd. But you knew that :) ) - I get waaay too competitive. It's just odd. I almost think we need to have some intentional family Wii time where we actively practice encouraging and helping one another and not caring who wins...

But I refuse to consider the possibility that I need to pray that prayer about my laptop or iPhone.


Not gonna do it. I'm fiiiiine..... My precioussssss laptop neeeeeds meeeee....


Anonymous said...

Life if full of so many choices. Truly if we prayed more faithfully and earnestly about all the things we do I think we'd all be amazed where God led us. My adult daughter is still home and sometimes we just like to 'chill' in front of the TV with a good old movie. But lately we have had numerous talks about how we could better use that time. I hope we succeed in pursuing that course this year. All these choices are bound up in 'God's moving in the hearts of his people" ..Pray pray pray that we are all more faithful to listening. God bless you as you raise your boys to love and serve God.
Diane of Salem way