Bit of a poorly J-Boy this morning, so we’re sat watching CBeebies together.
J took a while to take any interest in TV. Until he was almost two, the only things that would interest him were the bright colours moving about during football matches and Strictly. But when it hit, it hit hard: it seems he’d be happy to watch TV all day every day. If I’m honest, I don’t think the apple has fallen too far from the tree there: I can feel strangely lonely if I’m on my own in the house without the TV or radio, as though I’ve been separated from the herd.
The guilt around kids and TV is enormous, of course. Using Peter Rabbit and the Clangers as babysitters is a decision charged with fears about neglect and a child’s imagination withering on the sofa as they passively absorb whatever passes before their glassy eyes. The advantages are obvious, though: as well as keeping him in one place (ish) while I do infant-unfriendly stuff like cooking, it definitely helped with his language development. The unfortunate side effect of this seems to be he speaks with a curious Southern accent – I’ve no idea why he says ‘foive’, for example. At the same time, the guilt is pinned on something queasily tricky to define, the spectre of stunted development. If he watches too much TV, he becomes bored and frustrated, but he can’t admit it; he just wants to stuff more televisual treats in his brain hole. Balance has to be imposed from without, but that requires organisation from me, which can be a problem.
Some of the programmes are truly awful, not much more than the moving colours he watched as a baby; others are quite a lot of fun and genuinely educational. His favourite programmes have morphed as his interests have broadened – from In The Night Garden through Thomas The Tank Engine and Bing to Go-Jetters. He has a gratifying knack of undoing the puns and baby-speak used in the titles: Teletubbies becomes Teletummies. I was particularly pleased when he became obsessed with the new version of Danger Mouse, which was stylish and clever with neat comic timing and the same healthy anarchic streak that ran through the original. I loved that cartoon so much I used to design toys based on it: heavy nerd vibrations.
Now J-Mouse has started nursery, I can do the less child-friendly jobs while he’s out and (in theory) can then focus more of my loving parental energies on him in the afternoon. Eventually, I’ll implement a strict timetable for specific programmes at specific times and become the inspiring, creativity-promoting Dad I dreamed of being. But while he’s poorly, the box is back on.