I wake with a small face touching mine, nose to nose.
“What day is it?” he asks.
“Sunday,” I reply with a smile.
The small face abruptly leaves mine and begins shouting the news throughout the house, “It’s Sunday! It’s Sunday!”
The joy in the air is palpable. They cannot believe it has finally come again!
Sunday: the best day of the week.
No, my children are not overjoyed because it’s time for their favorite mass. This is a different kind of worship. Sundays they worship the tube. We let them watch T.V. on Sunday mornings and only Sunday mornings.
It wasn’t always like this. We have been parents for a long time, Jeb and I. Eighteen years ago we were the average American family. The television was glowing most of the day. Commercials invaded our subconscious and the anchors let us know all the “important” news of the day as we floated in and out, ate our meals and led our life.
And then Calvin arrived. Cal was baby #2 and loved the tube with a ferocity. Problem was, if I decided to turn the tube off, that ferocity was more than I could stand. A run-of-the-mill temper tantrum doesn’t bother me, but when it goes on for a solid hour? Yeah, that gets under my skin. And when it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME I turn the 30-minute show off? Enough already. The trade-off just wasn’t worth it.
So, 14 years ago we made the call. We disconnected our cable. The serviceman at the cable company couldn’t understand. Were we moving? Had we found another carrier? What the hell was going on? Why would anyone choose to live without T.V.?
It took some adjusting. My boys cried for their daily dose of “Arthur” and “Sesame Street” and I mourned the loss of my beloved Oprah. At first, I still let them watch the occasional VHS tape, but because the 30-minute videotape was self-limiting, the tantrum only lasted a few minutes. I let him have his time raging on the floor. I just walked around him. If all there was to watch was a snowy screen, he might as well get on with his life. But even at 18 months Cal was no dummy, especially when it came to his beloved screen. He soon realized I could just stick another tape in and the snow would disappear. So, I was still dealing with the nagging of when, when, when, when? and constantly saying no was wearing on me, too.
My kids do love to watch a cartoon and I don’t feel quite right depriving them completely of such a delicious pleasure. Some of my best childhood memories are of watching Bugs Bunny with my brothers. How could I deny them that? But seeing my kids eyes glaze over and totally disengage also makes me feel a bit sick to my stomach. We had to find a compromise.
So, we came up with Sundays.
Now, 14 years and 6 kids later, it is still the perfect balance. One day a week, my kids are allowed to spend the morning watching cartoons. We still don’t have cable, but that’s not necessary anymore. We can stream just about anything their little hearts desire with the added benefit of no commercials. My children are gloriously unaware of the latest and greatest gadgets and games, so they are never asking me to buy them “stuff”. Occasionally, someone will come home from school complaining that so-and-so gets to watch this or has that thing that they saw on T.V., but it is easily dismissed with, “Well, that’s not what we do in our family.”
That’s it. Nothing more. And they buy it! I swear to you, they really do!
My kids never ask to watch T.V. anymore. They only ask, “is it Sunday?” and if it’s not, “how many days until Sunday?” Surprisingly, they never cry or whine about it, either. This is probably because we, the parents, never waver. Never. In our house it has just become a fact: We watch T.V. on Sunday mornings. No debate, no discussion. We might even have the nerve to throw in an “Aren’t you lucky?”
And you know what? They are.
Sundays are truly lovely. We all have something to look forward to. After the children are fed a huge breakfast to get them through the marathon, the tube goes on and stays on for three solid, blissful hours. They also get computer and iPad access if they choose to play games. Jeb and I talk, read and sip our coffee leisurely.
If it’s so blissful, why don’t we open it up and offer another day or evening of watching for some added peace?
Because it doesn’t work. Then it’s not special Sunday anymore and insidiously the tube starts to claim our time.
We never miss having T.V. in our lives. We have never met a Bachelor, or a Survivor and have never Danced with a Star. We never saw the towers fall and did not witness the crushing grief of the Newtown community. I know it must sound strange, but for us it has become the norm. Our days and evenings are filled with make-believe, games, drawing and books. I can’t even imagine sacrificing that time for someone else’s interpretation of what is important. And when news of the latest tragedy finds its way into our sheltered little world, we are able to process it in our own way, in our own time, without the media interjecting.
For now, this is what works for our family, so don’t come a callin’ on a Sunday morning. We’re busy.
Any other time, we can be found exploring or climbing a great mountain,
or the best of all…reading comic books!