Posts Tagged ‘television as a baby sitter’

The Love Bus has many admirable qualities but functional air-conditioning is not one of them. And so, with the recent heatwave that has hit our fair city, we have found ourselves under house arrest.  

My friend KT rang and said “I don’t know how Anne Frank did it.”

What do you mean? I asked.

“Stay in those small rooms for so long.” she replied. Uh, I expect the fact that her country was being run by people who wanted to kill her might have played some small part in her staying power. The heat – however ferocious – doesn’t quite match the intensity of the Third Reich. 

But still, here we are on Day Three of temperatures of 43° C and above (that’s 109.4° F, baby), with a “cool change” predicted at some point soon, sending temperatures plummeting to a positively chilly 35° C… And all this has dovetailed nicely with the end of the six week summer break, so everyone is on their most charming behaviour anyway. 

I found myself on Day One wondering out loud on Facebook (as you do) about how much TV would be considered too much when it was over 40 degrees outside. ValleyGirl came up with the most reassuring answer:

Um – enough is probably enough when the sun has gone down, they’re all asleep on the sofa and you want to transfer them into their beds. Aww, those tired little glazed tv eyes, so cute.

Meanwhile, another friend, who I think has now converted to Foxtel as her new religion, said that the TV was simply turned on with the air-conditioner the minute the heatwave truly hit. After the TV had been on for more than four hours, her ex-Steiner educated son turned to her and said “This is the best day ever!”. 

Anyway, here’s a little diary I’ve kept of my own TV and air-conditioner usage over the last few days:

DAY ONE OF HEAT WAVE:  Implement stimulating morning program of painting, drawing, waterplay, science experiments, the collective- making of frozen chocolate-covered bananas (etc). Air-conditioner turned on at 10:30AM, TV on at 12:50. Both stay on for longer than my conscience would normally allow. 

DAY TWO: Air-conditioner on before 7:00AM. After shouting at the children for painting each other’s bodies before breakfast, TV resolutely switched on at 9:30am. TV switched on and off throughout the day, as required (turns out it is required a lot). 

DAY THREE: Air-conditioner still on from the night before. TV on at 7am. Most likely will be on all day. Past. Caring. 

At least I have air-conditioning. When friends of mine bought their house a year ago, they tossed up between fixing the garden or installing an A/C and the husband persuaded his wife that the garden was far more important. When I last spoke to his wife, she was muttering menacingly about making him do the gardening in the 42 degree heat when he got home from work that night 8pm. And yes, it really was still 42 degrees at 8pm that day. 

My own husband came up with the brilliant idea of squirting the kids with the hose before I embarked on the short walk to KT’s house for dinner last night. He said it would “keep them cool” and I believed him. Being the responsible parent that I am, I of course informed the kids of my plans well in advance and actually got them all excited about it – after all, water restrictions make the hose even more off limits than the treats cupboard. But when I actually did the squirting, Mr Justice burst into tears because “he wasn’t ready yet”, The Pixie started wailing because I had “RUINED. HER. PARTY. DRESS.” and Tiddles McGee just screamed like I was torturing him. All I could do was laugh the long hysterical laugh of a woman who had been shut up far too long with her children during the school holidays and squirt myself with the hose. And then go to that Happy Place in My Mind during the longest and hottest five minute walk of my life, whilst everyone else managed maintained their rage. 

So to all the other mothers in my fair city – and beyond – who have found themselves confined to small quarters with small people, I lift my TV remote in salute to you all and offer a silent prayer that the cool change comes in soon. I don’t know about anyone else but 35°C is looking pretty good right now from where I’m lying.

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I was the best mother in the world until I had kids. I had principles, goddammit. No child of mine was going to be put in front of the television for my own selfish purposes. No child of mine was going to carry on in the supermarket because I wasn’t giving him what he wanted Right Here Right Now. And no child of mine was ever EVER going to be put on a leash like a dog.

Of course I didn’t realise that the TV would be my Bestest Friend Ever when I needed to get dinner ready or hang out the washing unencumbered or maybe even just have five minutes Time Out before I started throwing furniture. Or that succumbing to unreasonable demands in the supermarket might just happen because I’d only had three hours sleep (in five bite-sized chunks) the night before and just didn’t have the strength to ride out the ensuing tantrum. As for the leash? Well it took just one incident where Mr Justice, at age 2, ran out on the road and I couldn’t catch him in time, being somewhat heavily pregnant. And voila! My son, the dog. 

Over the past six years, all the things I’d previously seen other parents do and declared I would never do as a parent have fallen one by one: computer games, co-sleeping, war toys, using chocolate as bribes, dummies, controlled-crying, breast-feeding past 12 months, delivering a quick sharp smack on the leg, fast food, putting 100s & 1000s in yoghurt, shouting like a crazy bitch, etc etc. Pretty much the only “rule” that I didn’t transgress was formula-feeding – but that’s only because I was very lucky to have fully-operational mama-jugs.

We mothers don’t make it exactly easy on ourselves. There’s a whole lotta finger pointing going on out there, particularly in online parenting forums, where anonymity seems to give people a licence to be Truly Outraged without having to declare their own small failings as a parent. The other day, I read a post which laid into some mother seen at a food court feeding her 18 month old chips… imagine: chips! What was worse was that she, the mother, was eating sushi. The gall of the woman! She obviously knew better and yet she chose to feed her child junk. Junk!!

I guess I got a bit riled by the post because I could so very easily have been That Dreadful Woman feeding her kids chips. Yes, I do give them chips (and worse) from time to time, and – judging from the sheer volume of similarly outraged responses to the post – I have no doubt been severely judged for doing so. But what the judgers fail to see in an isolated chip incident, is all the healthy home-cooked meals my kids eat the rest of the time (okay okay, so maybe there’s the promise of ice cream for dessert hanging over their heads). Especially since my children are all normal-sized and show no signs of being permanently hooked up to some intravenous chicken-grease food supply. But even if they were morbidly obese, I can tell you this with no uncertainty: no-one ever saved the world by tutting disapprovingly. 

Am I saying we shouldn’t always try to do what’s best for our children? No, I am not. We should try. We should try damn hard – because these little souls entrusted to our care are the Most Precious Things Ever. I guess I’m just saying that sometimes our grasp isn’t going to quite match our reach – sometimes we’re going to make small mistakes or lose sight of the ball momentarily, no matter how hard we try. It doesn’t mean we love our kids any less, it just makes us more human. 

And in any case, isn’t that why they invented psychiatry? Here’s something for nothing: keep trying your personal best, but be sure to cover your arse by putting money away each week for your kids’ inevitable shrink bills. And if they use their couch time just to talk about the time you fed them chips in a food court, I should think that you haven’t done too badly as a parent at all.

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