One of the financial realities of our shift from a DINK (double-income, no kids) household to one income post-parenthood is that life is full of new financial choices. For example, we could choose to spend over $1000 per year on cable or satellite TV. Instead, we choose to invest our limited time and money in a streaming-video-service subscription and airline tickets to see far-flung family members.
Granted, we weren’t big TV watchers before the kids came, so for us this isn’t a huge sacrifice. And besides, there are all those studies showing the benefits of limiting screen time, especially for kids under 2. And the fact that doing so since birth has already had a huge positive impact on our kids; they excel at independent play, don’t clamor for every new toy or snack food, and have no idea what “princess culture” is, thanks to missing out on all that advertising that targets kids.
But back to those airline tickets: It was on a recent winter vacation to see my brother in warm, sunny Texas that I discovered a new drug for my four-year-old, one that other parents have long known about: Screen Hypnosis.
Thanks to a stomach bug at the start of the trip, and a cold at the end, our preschooler Kimmie spent an awful lot of time on Uncle Evan’s couch, horizontally zoned out in front of my sister-in-law’s extensive collection of animated movies. By far her favorite was the Disney/Pixar classic Monsters, Inc.
When we returned home at the end of the trip, my mother (who’s long thought that my husband and I are, well, weird for limiting our kids’ screen time to near zero; after all, my brother and I grew up on Sesame Street and we turned out OK) got Kimmie her very own copy.
So one day last week, I dusted off the TV and DVD player in the basement, loaded up the brand-new Monsters, Inc. disc, plunked Kimmie in front of it, told her not to touch any buttons, hit “play,” and went off to start some laundry.
When I came back five minutes later to check on her, the opening previews were over and she was staring, transfixed, at the opening menu, as it played the same musical riff over and over. I probably could have left her there for half an hour or more. Instead, I selected “play movie” for her and went upstairs to clean up the breakfast and lunch dishes so I could think about supper.
What followed was magic: An entire 90-minute block of time without a single interruption from my dear sweet daughters! It was amazing to rediscover how much I can accomplish when no little distractions are toddling about. Yes, I really can do an entire project start to finish, if given the opportunity!
Now I can see why so many parents love TV so much. I wonder if I can stream episodes of Sesame Street over the Internet? Ah, to think of all the things I could accomplish with a few extra hours of uninterrupted time, a few times a week. Time that takes place when the sun is actually up. Time that doesn’t come at the expense of sleep, or require complex negotiations with my husband over his work schedule.