We recently gave away our TIVO. The next step is to cancel cable.
Mr. F. and I recently watched “No Impact Man”--a documentary following one family’s decision to have no net impact on the environment for a year while living in Manhattan. His project built in stages: starting with the somewhat easy: local eating and self-propelled transportation and culminating in the most difficult stage: no electricity.
The documentary is really interesting and has made me think more critically about my consumerism. However, one particular part of the movie made a significant impression on me. There is a scene where Colin (No Impact Man) is responding to a New York Times Article about his project. It was titled, “The Year Without Toilet Paper.” Colin replies by questioning why they had to focus on that. Why couldn’t they call it “The year I lost 20 pounds without going to the gym” or “The year my wife reversed her pre-diabetic condition” or “The year we turned off the TV and became better parents.” It was the last bit that has played in my head over and over again since watching it. As a result of not having a television and electricity, they became very creative in how they spent their time together. They worked on their garden, they caught fireflies, they played games together, etc. They were a much closer family as a result of not having television and electricity.
A couple of weeks ago at church one of the youth leaders gave a lesson on family traditions. As part of the lesson she mentioned that she never let her kids “check out” of the family. She wouldn’t let them wear earphones, watch TV by themselves or anything else that prevented them from interacting with the rest of the family. While she admitted that it was rather extreme, she said that the family grew close as a result.
These two scenarios were very much in my mind when I started noticing that Baby F.’s awareness of the television. He knows when it is on and is aware of the fact that it catches his parents attention and keeps it there for lengths of time. This makes me kind of sad. I don’t want my kid to have to fight with the television for my attention. I don’t want him to miss out on parental interaction because I am watching a stupid and unimportant show. I realized that not only was television sending unspoken and not necessarily true messages to my son about what his parents valued (i.e. we must really value watching TV since that is how we spend our time), but it was also sucking up time here and there that could be spent doing other things--things that I actually enjoy such as reading, writing, talking to my husband, hobbies, etc. I decided that 1) I don’t want to check out of my family 2) I don’t want my kids to check out and 3) I want to spend my time on things that I enjoy doing. Watching silly sitcoms because I am bored or I need “some down time” doesn’t really bring me a lot of enjoyment, yet I was doing quite a bit of it.
So yes. We are getting rid of cable. Granted, we are not to the point of giving up television entirely. There are a couple of shows I really do enjoy watching (Glee, The Office), and I really enjoy watching movies on the weekend. But it will cut down on a lot of the aimless channel searching and boredom show watching. I hope this will allow me to be a better parent and also more time to spend on things I actually enjoy doing.
I would be interesting in hearing your thoughts on the matter. What role do you think television should have in the home? Did you have one growing up? Did you watch it a lot? Was a limit set on how much television you could watch? If you have kids, what attitude do you have towards their television time?