We ration our son’s screen time.
At this point, he only plays a handful of tablet games, so “screen time” is still mostly “TV watching time,” and we try to limit it. If he’s going to become a couch potato, it’s at least going to be when he’s old enough to watch legitimate programming. There’s no need to binge watch “Dinotrux”.
Of course, sometimes we need him to watch something, just to get him out of our hair. And one of the joys of TV in 2015 is the ability to stream shows whenever we want. We’re not slaves to the programming schedule. But we are slaves to our kid.
So if we need to get something done, we’ll throw on Netflix and let him go to town. (But not “The Town.” He’s too young for that much Affleck.)
A thirty-minute show doesn’t give you a ton of time with which to work, so it’s not like we’re curing cancer while the kid catches up on “Rescue Bots.” But it can definitely be helpful.
Here’s a list of things Mom and Buried and I use this counter programming tactic to accomplish.
Things We Do While Son is Watching TV
- Cook – The last thing Mom and Buried and I need when we’re trying to manage dinner is having to dodge some three-foot-tall moppet who’s running underfoot opening cupboards, inexplicably sitting down in the middle of the kitchen floor to draw, and/or begging for every snack he glimpses when we open the pantry for something. So he gets a show. Or two. Until dinner is ready and then we have a screaming match about turning the goddamn TV off so we can eat as A GODDAMN FAMILY STOP SPITTING FOOD AT THE WALL GO TO BED!
- Clean – You know what’s worse than cleaning? Cleaning while The Nothing lurks behind you, undoing everything you’ve done. Strike that, I’d prefer if he were The Nothing, because at least when he was done, everything would just be gone! Instead, he leaves chaos and destruction in his wake, and then we have to turn around and clean that up. He’s like a walking oil spill. So he gets a show. Or two. Until the cleaning is done except it’s never done so he gets eighteen more shows I’ll be in the bedroom chugging beers because WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT.
- Work – I occasionally work from home. Mom and Buried’s actual office is in North Carolina, so she exclusively works from home. It sounds delightful, I know, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you have kids. It’s gotten easier now that Detective Munch is in school, but he still gets home well before quitting time, so sometimes you need to distract him so you participate ib a conference call without him climbing on you screaming “poopy butt!” over and over. Which is a literal thing that literally happens, unless he’s watching “Scooby Doo!” Which is exactly what he’ll be doing until I finally take the phone off mute, say “thanks everyone!” to all the people I’ve been ignoring for the past hour, and hang up.
- Make the Bed – This isn’t a euphemism. I hate making the bed, but I hate it even more when my kid follows me in there while I’m doing it and starts jumping on top of the sheets. I kind of want to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he just wants to play and he wants to hang out with his daddy and he has energy to burn like any five-year-old, but I’m pretty sure he knows that if he annoys the fuck out of me while I’m trying to accomplish something, I’ll put on Netflix. Because kids are the smartest stupid idiots on earth. Whether it’s a ploy or not, it works. Enjoy the “Curious George” Halloween special for the 18th time, weirdo!
- Make the Bed – This is a euphemism. Enjoy the “Curious George” Halloween special for the 19th time, weirdo! And make sure you turn it up really loud, we’ll be in the bedroom… making the bed, if you know what I mean! (Don’t worry, it’s totally safe to say that to him because he has no idea what I mean.) (FYI: I’m talking about having sex.)
Counter programming is a handy trick. But be careful; you might find yourself leaning on it a bit too often. Last week I let him watch three hours of “Mystery Incorporated” just so I could squeeze in a nap.
Except for the ones Mom and Buried provides for me.