“Mummy, you’re a dirty hoe!”
“Dirty hoe! The Cat in the Hat said dirty hoe!”
“Dirty hoe in the garden.”
Back in the bright and shiny days of new parenthood, when we had just one little Bean and a thousand ideas about how to raise him right, we decided that he would not watch any tv. But after he turned one, we thought a show here and there would be okay. And now that he is two and there is a new little Monkey in the house, tv time has been creeping up. Bean has one volume (loud) and one speed (full), and Netflix has become an all-too-easy fix for those moments when I need to put the baby down for a nap, or make dinner, or go hide in my room.
Take the other day, for example. Monkey is working on his first two teeth and so he and I are not sleeping well. Bean has a cold and has been… emotional. And Daddy picked up some extra shifts at work so I was alone with the kidlets for an extended period of time. After the fourth outburst caused by my apparent inability to drive the dumptruck at the correct speed on its mission to pick up its load of pears, shoes and logs, I uttered those magical words that in our house can turn the darkest cloud into sunshine and rainbows:
“Would you like to watch a show?”
Minutes later, Bean was snuggled up on the couch, happy as can be, watching the Cat in the Hat movie. “I love you, Mummy.” I slunk away with guilt and relief to read through some recipes and plan the night’s dinner in peace. I’d never seen the movie, but it must be safe, right? It’s one of his favourite books to read, the movie isn’t overly long, and it didn’t appear to have any “scary guys” in it (Bean’s sole objection to any show).
Cut to the next day, when my sweet, sweet boy called me a dirty hoe and blamed it on the Cat in the Hat.
I am a chronic waffler on the hot-button issues of parenting – screen time, feeding, sleep, structure, you name it. I flit from extreme to extreme and struggle to find a middle ground that I can accept. I’ll read an article about the effects of screen time on the developing brain and start a new week refreshed and energetic, full of ideas for enriching sensory play and imaginative art projects. I make charts and track Bean’s screen time, and proudly pat myself on the back when we’ve met whatever goal I’ve set. But then I get tired. Or it rains. Or there’s something that I just really want to get done. And when Bean says in his persuasive toddler manner, “I watch a show?” I give in and it’s so easy and for a while we are all happy. But the more he gets, the more he wants, and as I try to keep the peace his screen time gradually begins to creep up again.
Maybe this swing from one extreme to the other is an indication of my own fickle nature, my inability to commit to any one way of doing things. Or maybe it’s just a natural ebb and flow, a way of keeping life balanced. The middle ground exists; but just like the midpoint on an evenly weighted teeter-totter, it’s tough to stay on that perfectly balanced sweet spot for long.
Either way, we won’t be watching Cat in the Hat again any time soon.