Setting a New View!

When I married seven years ago, I was surprised to discover that my new husband, a video producer, was a closet TV freak. Bill doesn't like prime-time sitcoms or dramas, but he's hooked on science fiction, historical/military documentaries, and home improvement shows. He buys a TV Guide and looks for his shows on the cable channels and records them for later consumption. The video tapes are stacked knee-high! (It's got to be genetic: his father is the same way with Magnum PI and Autoweek.)

In the first five years of our marriage, I also learned to "watch" things for recreation (good adventure movies, A&E's Biography, reruns of any Star Trek or Zorro) and often left the TV on for companionship when Bill was working late, or when I was working on the computer in the living room. Personally, I'm not a crusader against TV… I believe it has its place. Yes, the violence is disheartening; there is more sex in TV car ads today than there used to be in Playboy; and extended TV use kills brain cells and robs us of valuable IQ points. I keep telling myself that discrimination is the answer.

Since our daughter, Katie, was born two years ago, though, Bill and I have tried to plan the TV we actually watch, and turn the TV off when not in use. This is our weekly habit:
Sunday: Martha Stewart Living
Monday: Star Trek: Voyager
Friday: X-Files (adults only!)
Saturday: This Old House and New Yankee Workshop

We get our daily dose of news on the car radio while driving to work. Our three and a half hours of planned TV viewing is usually supplemented with a special movie each week, usually Thursday evening. We do plead guilty to occasional "surfing", usually to History Channel or Food TV.

Katie doesn't really like TV, and ignores it completely most of the time. There are three exceptions we've found: animal shows on Discovery Channel, especially those with lions, tigers and teddy bears (oh, my!); gymnastics or cheerleading competition coverage; and the classic Wizard of Oz. She squeals with delight when she first sees the animals or hears the lively music, but within 15 minutes is off pouring pretend tea for her animals or tumbling on the floor, trying to stand on her head, and begging her Daddy to lift her in the air. If we time it right, she'll watch one of these shows just long enough for us to vacuum and dust the house, or fold a load of laundry without "help".

What do we do when we're not watching TV? We cook our meals together, and eat on the deck whenever it's nice. Bill cuts the lawn, and Katie and I weed and water our flower borders, smelling each and every one of the "rosies". We all read. We walk to the public library, and get more things to read. We walk to the park, and visit with our God-families. On rainy days, we rent newer videos or borrow classics from our library, or put on shows with Katie's animal puppets.

But I am concerned about our family's TV future: the peer pressure on Katie will start soon enough. Her friends at the park will be singing Barney songs and doing karate kicks like the Power Rangers. She probably won't know these characters, and will feel left out. I pray that she will tell her friends about her book-friends Curious George, Brown Rabbit, and Madeleine, and the animals she sees on Discovery. I hope she'll show them how to use puppets and plant flowers. I don't want Katie to feel awkward with her friends, for her lack of TV experience, but I don't want her to watch TV for its own sake. Like many parents, I think this is an issue I'll struggle with for quite a while to come. Vegging out is so easy!

Fall is here, and the television networks have worked all year to produce new dramas, situation comedies, and adventures. Before you tune in and get hooked for another season, take some time to read the articles in this section. They explore many of the aspects of balancing TV in your family's life.

There are some wonderful shows on TV, which can support your hobbies, expose you to far-away places, and give you great starting points for discussions and family activities. Uncontrolled, TV viewing can contribute to spiritual emptiness, intellectual stagnation, and serious muscle atrophy (except that remote-control thumb).

by Nichola Toda Krause

© 1996 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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