OPINION: It was never the plan. Honest. We vowed not to be those parents who used their television as a babysitter, writes Mark Hotton in And Baby Makes Four.
And if we'd had just the one child, we probably could have done that, because as a baby Zach spent little time watching the box.
But when you're trying to do something around the house and you've got an almost 3-year-old getting in the way or getting upset about the crawling baby getting into his toys (you think he'd have learnt to put them away by now, but no), then flicking on the television is a safe quick-fix.
Sure, we'd love to have two children who can entertain themselves by playing nicely, and quietly, together, but that dream is some time off. Actually, based on how Zach gets when Piper does get at his toys, it's highly unlikely.
His favourites used to be the vast collection of inherited Wiggles DVDs, but over time tastes have changed and now he's keen on that stupid, annoying Spanish girl, with her equally annoying high-pitched monkey named Boots and that darn infernal fox who constantly needs to be told not to swipe things.
Some of you may not have come across Dora the Explorer, but those who have will know how annoying she can be. Give me the Wiggles any day - at least Sam (the yellow one) can sing. Or, he could, until he got booted out and replaced with a new Wiggle (Zach isn't aware of this, so let's not tell him).
Thanks to the beauty of MySky, we can watch Dora ad nauseum because the hard drive is full of episodes. And Zach knows exactly what's on there and which one he'll want to watch, so none can be deleted. And woe betides anyone who tries to put the wrong one on.
Sadly though, despite my general disdain for her, I can actually see how good the show is for him. He can count up to at least six in Spanish and knows other Spanish words, and he's recognised that certain things need to be done before something can be achieved, which helps with setting tasks for him.
The only problem with putting it, apart from being annoying for his parents, is that his little sister goes all glassy-eyed as well. I don't know what she actually gets out of it - probably just a bunch of moving colours - but she clearly gets a big kick from the television.
I don't want the pair of them growing up on the couch, but when the wind is howling and the hail beating on the windows, and they've played with their toys for a while, then there's nothing wrong with sticking them in front of the television. Is there?
It's not something we do every day automatically, and there's no TV in the mornings, but we all grew up on a diet of cartoons and cool shows and it hasn't harmed us. Well, not that much.
There's certainly a sense of calm that descends on the lounge when it goes on, which helps us get things done.
So I'm not going to begrudge them their Dora, despite her annoying upward inflections and whiney voice.
After all, it could be worse, it could be the Teletubbies he likes. Or that horrid purple dinosaur named Barney. Now that would be criminal.
Mark Hotton is a fulltime journalist/fulltime dad of two wonderful children who are only perfectly behaved when watching television. And he's now OK with that. He secretly embraces it.
- The Southland Times
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