Thursday, March 19, 2009

Unknown Devils

Right now, my sons are playing Nintendo DS (well, one is playing, one is rooting him on) and I am in front of my computer editing first graders' memoirs and updating my blog, checking my email, twittering, applying for writing jobs, entering contests.... you get the picture. We may all be wireless, but we're tethered nonetheless.

When I have nothing to feel guilty about as a parent (ha!), I reach back in time. Throughout my own childhood, I was just as tethered--if not more so--to the television set, as my children are to computer game devices. Mom had work to do, homework was finished, and Bugs Bunny was on. We would watch until dinner, sometimes watch through dinner, and watch before bed. Then I grew up, a member of the generation that was studied regarding such behavior, and learned that too much television is bad for kids.

So I limit my kids' television time. The shows today are not what they were in my youth. Slapstick cartoon comedy is gone (though have you noticed how incredibly violent Tom & Jerry is? Wow!), replaced with sass, crudity and boogers. Sure, boys find it funny. But for all we know, that's even more harmful than mousetraps on tails ever were.

Of course, I'm a mom, so I also always have things to do. Rather than let my kids sit open-mouthed in front of the television, I let them play animated computer games. But is there wisdom in replacing the devil you know with one you don't?

Some studies have emerged citing violent video games as being linked to aggressive behavior and hostility. Well, duh. But we're talking about bouncing, animated balls that are trying to go from town to town to save the slimes. Or something. Can that really be bad? As bad as hours of television?

My mom didn't worry much about television having harmful effects. Look. We're going to grow up and be exposed to all kinds of horrible, nasty, dangerous things, some of which we don't even know about yet. But does that mean we should live based on the potential future of illness and as-yet-non-present personality disorders? Or should I let them play a couple of rounds of Rocket Slime so I can finish some work for Ben's school and get a healthy family dinner started?

Such is the life of a parent. Nothing is ever black and white, no decision is ever cut and dry. It'd be nice if it was, but really the best we can do is go with what we're comfortable going with and let the rest work itself out. The way I figure it, no matter what I do, they're going to resent me for some things. At least this way, I have a chance of it being for the right things. Heaven knows I still love Bugs Bunny to this day. Thanks, Mom.


Snowbrush said...

"When I have nothing to feel guilty about as a parent (ha!), I reach back in time."

I certainly applaud your determination to not give up on feeling guilty prematurely.

"I was just as tethered--if not more so--to the television set..."

As a lonely child in the country, TV (such as it was in rural Mississippi in the '50s) was my salvation. My favorite was "The Huckleberry Hound Show."

"Heaven knows I still love Bugs Bunny to this day."

And no peacenik was he, eh?

frank vitale said...

Thank you for sharing your parental struggles. I know TV or no TV is not a really big serious struggle, but you're a loving mom and everything is concern when the people you love are involved. I thank you because it helps me make sense of my parenting many years ago and it brings me back to that special time if only for a moment. And for you, I think, what a great record you will have 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now. You will be very happy for that.
And you say you are looking for writing jobs. I feel very sorry for those people who are not hiring you. They are really missing out.