Friday, April 10, 2009

No TV Week

Today ends a week with no TV at our house. Or, more accurately, it ends a week of Max not watching TV and the rest of us doing it behind his back. I mean, come on, didn't he realize that no TV would mean missing the first real "Must See TV Thursday" NBC has had since the 90's with two new episodes of The Office and a new 30 Rock? Come on!

Max is so amazingly dedicated to anything he decides to do, so when his school decided to have a no TV week he was totally into it. Steve even had to scold me when Max announced he would not be watching TV and I said "You know Max, that means you can't watch American Idol." I guess I never knew what a junkie I was until I found myself trying to talk my son into watching TV. Pretty scary. I did feel that his school was a little hypocritical when they said that they were making an exception for the basketball playoffs. Please! It really made me feel that I should make an exception for American Idol because a) they're both competitions, b) they're live (well, sort of), and c) they don't get rebroadcast. I mean, come on, how could they have said it was okay to watch college basketball but not okay to watch Adam Lambert singing Mad World and Simon Cowell giving the first standing ovation of his career? Heathens! Just for that, I'm putting it here on my blog for him to view as many times as he wants!

The funny thing about all this is that I'm pretty much a control freak when it comes to the TV they watch. No commercial TV (99% of the time, there is American Idol on the schedule), and at the very most 2 hours a day. That even seems like a lot to me, but it includes all computer and video game time. Max rarely gets more than an hour due to his school schedule and homework, but Jack pushes it sometimes. I became pretty anti-TV (for kids, at least) when I went to a lecture shortly after Max was born by Jean Kilbourne, the author of many books on the effects of advertising. The thing that stood out to me most in her discussion was how studies have shown that people's feelings of dissatisfaction with their lives is directly proportionate to the amount of TV they watch. And I believed it at the time. I didn't want my kids to grow up to become those spoiled, insatiable types that are always wanting something they haven't got, so I set some strict guidelines then, when Max was still a newborn.

It wasn't too hard to do because I grew up with a mother who didn't allow us to watch too much TV. In fact, she went to heroic lengths to stop us. Once, when she was disgusted with the amount of TV we were watching, she told us that she had gotten rid of the TV one day when we were at school. You can imagine the shock and horror of my sisters and I when we went into the family room and found that the TV was indeed gone. And it stayed gone, for almost a year, until I was rummaging around in a closet in our laundry room and found it covered with a blanket and shoved in the corner. I couldn't believe my Mom could lie to us like that, and protested enough that the TV was back in action.

But my Mom still wasn't satisfied. She worked and we spent a lot of time in the summers sitting around watching TV, and she quickly got to the disgusted point again. This time she and my Dad rigged up a lock on the back of the TV so they could control it's use, and so when they went to work in the morning we had to find something else to do. We hated them for it. My sister Liz and I were fed up with it one day so she decided to try and pick the lock and was successful, but not without almost electrocuting herself in the process. And then there was the problem of how to lock it again before my parents came home. We never figured that one out, and were both in big trouble when they went to unlock it for the evening news and found it had been jimmied. But the lock was gone after that. I guess the figured they would rather us watch too much TV than kill ourselves trying to break into it.

You would think that all this intervention would have made me think twice before wasting so many hours of my life watching pointless television, but I still do it. And I am very proud of Max that even with a slacker of a mother like me, he's still so dedicated. And even my American Idol temptations didn't sway him.

Do I still believe it's true that people's satisfaction with their lives is proportionate to the amount of TV they watch? Maybe, but I feel it's more likely that they're just not watching the right shows.