Recently I was thinking of my mom. I have to tell you – like most kids, my mom and I haven’t always seen eye to eye and we’ve had our run-ins. But mostly I do, and have always thought my mom is the most amazing woman! There is not one thing I have seen my mother unable to accomplish in the most professional manner. And then she always manages to create fun while she is doing it!
One of the things that especially stands out in my memory of childhood is her nonacceptance of boredom. A whine of boredom was always met with a dish towel, a scrub brush, a dust cloth, or a paint brush with paint and paper, a ball of yarn with knitting needles, a new cake recipe with ingredients or a yard or two of fabric with a simple pattern, etc.
Being the middle child of a much older and younger sister I was often found complaining about being left alone. My mom seldom chastised my older sister for leaving me to my own devices. Instead at 4 years old I became the best pound cake maker around. In fact, recently I was remembering how we used to give pound cakes away so often only to realize it was because I was probably baking one a day. “Joan won’t play with me and no one else is around,” I’d whine. “I know! Let’s bake a cake!” she’d say cheerily as if she hadn’t said it every day for the last two weeks. At seven years old I learned to knit my first scarf and at eleven, I learned to sew my first dress.
In my family, we were only allowed one hour of television a day. On the weekends if we were at my grandparents we could sneak in watching Saturday morning cartoons and “The Million Dollar Movie” with my grandfather. But when I was at home, TV was a waste of time. Why would you want to watch other people living their lives? Why not just live a life? That frame of mind has saved me in many situations in my adult life. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am more likely to go create something than clean something; but still my mother’s lesson is forever in my make up.
In teaching children, teens particularly, I find that so many of these kids cannot fathom living without a television set. Many when they start with me watch minimally 4-6 hours of television a day! They sometimes have the television on while doing their homework. Parents of younger children often have a habit of answering a whining child’s need for attention with turning the television set on and fixing the child in front of it so that the parent can get their work done.
Have you ever really watched someone watching television? They are sitting on a couch or a chair absorbing an inflow of information and drama. They watch lives that are not theirs, they are spectators in others lives. And why would this be? Lack of time to do these things themselves or maybe lack of confront? Well if they are spending that much time watching, I can only assume it is lack of confront.
I am not trying to throw stones here, as I am not a stranger to this lure. I remember being home with my son when he was little. From the time I was 18 years old I always worked a job and went to school or worked two, sometimes three jobs whether for pay or volunteering somewhere. Now I was going to be home with my son. Well, as my son turned two and a half he didn’t need or want me watching his every move. Sometimes he was out at a friend’s house and sometimes he was just playing quietly in his room. I started to turn the TV on for the “company” while I cleaned, not really watching it at all. Slowly but surely, the pictures and suspense created would lure me in. Soon I found I was sitting to watch a show or two between the work or while I ate. Before long, the television was on all day and I was watching most of the day. Then one day, I have no idea how long this was going on really, but I was shocked to find something had happened. The television had been on all day. I had put my son to sleep and later that night he woke up, came into the family room and sat on me (like a chair- not cuddling or lovingly) and started to watch the TV. I was shocked! I started to think about what I had done that day and honestly I had just watched television all day. And the most shocking thing of all was that I couldn’t even remember what I had watched! I had literally disappeared as a person and in truth had apparently become, at least to my son, a chair! I know that sounds odd but think about it: in that time I had no creative thoughts, very little to no action, I did very little to help anyone but my son and myself. I had spent the day receiving an inflow of communication, much of which was upsetting news or dramatic suspense (often untrue information about the way people should behave or normally behave). Very little of it was educational, some of it was fun, but if I couldn’t even remember it, then…..?
From that day forward, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to make television a low priority to people. I try to remember and use my mother’s methods to handle boredom. Television fixes people in one spot, making them inactive. And I can’t think of a more dangerous thing to have happen. People do not use their muscles, they accept false information, inappropriate behavior becomes looked upon as the norm because it is portrayed in “funny situation comedies”. Actions like disrespecting one’s parents or making it look like parents are not as knowledgeable as the teens is common place on television. Things like promiscuous sex are promoted as “normal”. Even when beneficial things are taught, the person is seldom sent out to engage in that activity.
If a sudden change of environment were to happen, whether it be due to climate change, natural disaster, man made disasters etc. would we and our children be able to survive well in that environment? Would they be able to use their own imaginations rather than depend on the imaginations of others to create and rebuild a society? Does it sound too deep, too improbable? In an age where there are still atomic weapons in most major countries, obvious disagreements between different races and countries of people and environmental anomalies due to pollution, then isn’t it a possibility? It may be one that is non-confrontable and one that could easily drive a person to becoming apathetic about doing something about it, but it is a possibility never the less.
OK, so now this is starting to get too heavy even for me. Honestly, even with this awareness I still watch TV and doubt I will convince anyone to do otherwise here. However, I could make you aware of the situation and maybe, just maybe, we can all be more vigilant to limit the television to a certain time period, encourage our children to get out and play and also our teens to volunteer in different community groups and certainly to turn the television off when doing work. We can by example make the television less important than the living people in front of us. And we can encourage them to use their own imaginations and to play with the family more.
To get a more technical and exact workable viewpoint about this subject contact Mace-Kingsley Family Center for exact references. You can reach us at 727-442-3922 or [email protected].
Wishing you imagination,
Diane DiGregorio Norgard
Mace-Kingsley Family Center