Saturday, May 15, 2010

On TV, Toddlers, and Tiredness

One of the highlights of my morning drive to work is listening to the BBC World Service. My 15-minutes of uninterrupted drive-time listening usually coincides with the world news and Business Daily, the latter being one of my favourite BBC programmes. Last week, one news bulletin in particular caught my attention, yet another study on Toddlers and TV.

When I had Jordy, I made a promise to myself to try not to rely on the TV as a passive babysitter. I didn't have a hard and fast policy on TV watching, but I did know I wouldn't have the TV blaring on in the background the whole day. Not sure why, but I just felt having my ipod playing would be a lot more relaxing for all involved. So that's what we did most of the day. Some of my fondest memories of my stay at home mum days with Jordy involve dancing around to music - Jack Johnson, Simon and Garfunkel, Yo-Yo Ma, Mark Knopfler, Turin Brakes, U2, Crowded House, the occasional Guns n Roses and Radiohead.

But very deliberately, I also remember looking online for second hand Baby Einstein DVDs, and meeting a mum at an MRT one afternoon and buying the ENTIRE Baby Entire discography in one fell swoop (for $35 might I add, and no, she didn't throw in Ginzu knives).

I can't remember the thinking that led me to the Baby Einstein purchase, I just remember it coincided with Jordy enjoying being in his bouncy chair and me thinking that he should have something else to look at during bouncy chair time besides the incy wincy spiders hanging down from the mobile attached to his chair. But the thing was, it felt RIGHT. It felt like I was giving Jordy a glimpse into a cool world filled with puppets and classical music and great toys. And I remember thinking it was a welcome respite from all that playing - whether it be with me or on his own, as well as his all-time favourite activity, Reading with Mummy - we were easily going through 10 to 20 books per day from very early on!

So from that moment when he was around three months old, Jordy watched 20 - 25 mins of Baby Einstein every day. This increased to twice a day when he was about 8 months old, and this takes us right to the present.

So when I hear news articles like this, with a very severe sounding researcher saying in an urgent voice that children under two SHOULD NEVER WATCH TV. Not. at. all. Or it might impact their later years in very bad ways, I feel a mixture of emotions that range from guilt, fear, chagrin, anger, denial and a sense of "mind your own @#%* business!"

I know Baby Einstein is currently embroiled in a class action suit. But hey, I didn't buy Jordy those DVDs thinking for one moment that they would make him smarter. Sheesh, surely any parent would know that? Wouldn't they?! Doesn't your gut instinct tell you that the things that make your child grow up into confident, bright individuals are the simple things like love, security and attention? And not plonking them in front of a screen?

Anyway, I know I'm ranting a bit here, but I just feel that parenting in the 21st century is characterised by Too Much Information. If one were to spend just 10 minutes everyday Googling the latest child rearing trends, that would make for a pretty confusing life indeed. I mean, the debates are endless: breasfeeding vs formula, organic vs regular, cow's milk vs non-dairy, traditional baby-wearing cultures vs Western baby-on-playmat approach, co-sleeping vs cry-it-out, home-care vs child-care, smacking vs anti-smacking, medicating vs homeopathic treatment, flashcards vs books, and let's not even start about the whole "working mom" debate!

So back to the TV is BAAAD issue. Well, seeing as Jordy is 21 months old, and that he's been watching 20 to 40 minutes of Baby Einstein everyday (more when he's sick!), I'm going to state here that it felt right at the time, and still feels right today. I'm not making excuses or getting defensive, but he gets loads of one-on-one interaction, shared reading and imaginative play, and is one active toddler to boot (he was able to jump as of three months ago!). TV makes up a small but not crucial component of his day. So I'm hoping that if we carry on with our balanced, common-sensical approach, it won't do him any long term harm! If you are a parent and have a view on this, I'd love to hear it!

In the meantime, here's a little recap of Jordy at 21 months...

He still loves bubbles! In face, one of his favourite things is a Central Park bubble song I downloaded on my ipod.

Bubble time at gong gong and mama's

He has deep-belly laughs. He enjoys a good laugh as much as a good cry (yep, we're firmly in the terrible twos).

Sharing a laugh with Mama

He LOVES cake. The capital letters do not give enough emphasis to the far-reachingness of that love. That love, it is immense. This was the first time he'd ever tasted real chocolate cake. It was Mothers' Day and we thought it was a special occasion so why not?!

Ola, my name is Jordy aka The Moustachioed One.

And he's talking heaps now. Favourite new words include "swimming" and "goggles"! And we've been showing him pictures everyday (on Powerpoint) of the entire family, Singaporean and Kiwi, and he lights up when he sees family now :)

Rare family photo at Mothers' Day dinner!

Wow this was a pretty long post. Ok, Jordy's due to wake up from his nap anytime now so am gonna end here. Oh and the tiredness I alluded to in the title of the post? Just a lingering malaise that I'm trying to ease out of, remnants of a viral fever that I came down with two weeks ago I suspect. But I have been feeling bone-tired the last few days. Doesn't help that work is crazy. Not just normal, many-projects-with-multiple-deadlines crazy, but CRAZY. But the people make it worth it at the moment (apart from unhinged director I had to deal with from another department). So things are chugging along at the moment but am hoping to get back into exercise routine this coming week!


unk Dicko said...

Glad you are wise and pragmatic. Go with your gut far it has been good. There are 360 degrees of differing views on any googled, like you said rightly. Go for Balance in exposure to learning and experiences for kids.
Avoid extremism of the kind you heard!
( They may have a hidden agenda to say what they said...I know! )

maree said...

Oh..FABULOUS blog!
Look at JORDY!! I LOVE LOVE the pix of Mama & Grandson & Love the T Shirt Daisy - hee hee. Jordy looks so comfortable & happy in his own skin. And GREAT family shot ( the adults loving it more than the kids - hee hee ) Oh dear...feeling very homesick for you all. Not long now & Dora you are so right - information overload for mums & dads now - so lovely for you & Jordy that you trust yourself ( that in itself is valuable for JR ) Be well soon maybe you need some down time with Baby Einstein too. x

Campbells said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly Dora - so much overthinking and analysing of the business of raising kids. I think parents should do what works for them and the "experts" should mind their own business! It's great that we have so much information available to us as parents but not so great when it's constantly in your face! Our kids watch DVDs for a short time most days and, like Jordy, they also love books and music and a wide range of other activities. All things in moderation.

Evelina Baddely said...

I totally agree, Dora. Seb gets TV once a day, when he is in his jumparoo while Mano and I get ready in the mornings. I certainly don't believe Baby Einstein is making him smarter, but I do believe it is far healthier for him to be treated to the smooth stylings of Baby Einstein's 'Wheels on the Bus' than for him to stare off into space while we're getting dressed, packing baby gear bags up, brushing teeth, etc. etc.

I can only think of one parenting family off-hand that totally refused to let their daughter watch TV. This led to a huge fight between them on a trans-pacific flight when the in-flight entertainment system was calling her name. They are now divorced. I rest my case.