I grew up watching TV to my heart’s content. My parents let me watch until I fell asleep or my head started to ache.
TV programs and advertisements then were very different from now. If I weren’t a parent, I wouldn’t be much disconcerted.
But now, I am responsible for five innocent yet impressionable minds.
I think with the advent of MTV, everything about TV loosened up.
Having said that, I was still a firm believer that I will lose my mind first before I give up TV or iPad or any screen time for that matter in the house with young children.
Sure. I will just let them watch the Kids Network, Wiggles, Barney, Hi 5, Peppa Pig. So on and so forth. They watched for at least an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.
TV was the most affordable baby sitter.
I can tick off my to-do-list for the day pretty quickly. I can have my delightful coffee break without any interruption.
But as it is in every case, what you give your young children is what you get.
We end up having screaming matches every time I turn off the screen. I become Mrs. Bad Guy for ending their fun.
You are not my best friend Mommy!
Watching TV becomes a right, a given, a default. No longer a privilege. They easily figured out that they can use their noise (to wake up the baby) as a bargaining power to gain access to the iPad.
I cannot talk, disturb, much more ask them to do things for me while they are in the middle of a show.
I was invisible.
Did I mention about them fighting about who gets to hold the remote control, who gets to watch which show or movie or who will get to sit on the best chair?
All these time, I was depriving them of their precious play time.
So I can do some chores in the house? Bad news for me, I ended up doing everything. I was exhausted. Out of my wits.
Then homeschooling came along. Suddenly, I am not only the mother. I am the teacher, the friend, the guidance counsellor, the principal. I have gained back my authority. Now, I know what they are learning, what they need to know, their interests and aptitudes.
In marketing’s parlance, I have mind share and share of mind. I gained access into my customers’ minds which otherwise were off limits.
Gone were the days when I would ask them what they learned from school and all I got was “Nothing!” or “I don’t remember!“. How can I supplement what they learned from school if I don’t have a clue where to begin with?
Now, after morning classes are done, I ask them to paint/draw/write. They really enjoy this. Play time at the garden follows. Be one with nature.
Quiet time is next for at most two hours in their respective rooms. They read, color, build Lego, write mini books, finish their Chinese homework, nap.
I let them go out, weather permitting, to the garden or rumpus afterwards.
Magic happens here.
They have endless pretend plays. Shops and buyers with paper money. Moms and dads. Driving around Australia. Builders and fixers. Biking contests. Hide and seek. Super heroes. Bahay bahayan. Cooking experiments. Bugs hunting. Gardening.
The possibilities are endless.
Imagination runs wild. Kids thinking out of the box.
By the time they get tired, dinner is ready. Their father is home.
Before I let them off the hook, I ask them first to finish their jobs. Clean up their mess, the dining, living rooms. Empty the bids. Vacuum the stairs. Sweep the floor, fold clothes. Look after Anton.
I gained my much needed Me-time.
The children are not with me all the time anymore.
They have a life of their own.
I never thought the day would come when I won’t rely on TV. But the less I avail it, the more my kids become more creative, productive, responsive and imaginative.
They are obviously happier and in a much better learning place and spiritual space.
But don’t be led to believe that it was just because of homeschooling or we achieved all these overnight.
It took us years of hard work, trial and error, chaos and cleaning up (still), depression and optimism, yelling and confession, patience and even more patience.
I discovered that with more kids, our home becomes an indispensable and irreplaceable place of enjoyment, adventure and friendship.
Of course we still allow them to have some screen time once in a while. This time, I use it as a bargaining tool to get them to do jobs in the house or to help me out. It is more than ever a most sought reward.
Best part is, I don’t have to panic and hurriedly change channels whenever suggestive ads are shown.
To the pure, all things are pure.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.