So I've mentioned before that I totally let my kids watch shows (I would say "TV," but we don't actually have TV, so I make the distinction--no commercials and intentional watching, not endless, passive intake), and I will not lie--it's pretty much a daily part of our routine. Do I like that that's the case, considering the recommendation for under-twos is NO TV at all? Not really. But it's perhaps the one place I allow myself a pass of sorts.
I'm picky about the way my children are raised. I'm picky about what they wear (natural fibers, mostly cotton), what they eat (actual, you know, food), where they sleep (with us), how they're treated (with respect), their toys (ideally open-ended), their main care-provider (me...this one's a bit of a double-edged sword, I won't deny...), their days (not super scheduled and regimented), their main form of comfort and supplemental nutrition at this point (the ever-popular boobie), etc. And for the most part, I feel we're coming out on top.
But I do really mean that I feel these choices. In my bones. Hovering at the fringes of my sleep-deprived brain. Stirring the pot of my often fragile emotions. SIGH.
Basically, raising babies is HARD WORK. (And yes, you are absolutely supposed to read that in a George Dubya drawl--seriously, can anyone see or hear those two words and not at this point?)
So, basically, I need a freaking godsdamn break during the day. And because I lie down with my kids for nap, meaning they sleep really, really well, but also meaning that I don't get that time to myself to, you know, DO stuff around the house, or write, or blog, or sit on the couch staring off into space while enjoying the silence--which really would actually consists of the dogs intermittently barking at NOTHING and the endless cars going by along our busy street (and seriously, in the absence of two tiny humans, THAT IS SILENCE, DAMMIT)--I actually need a break late in the day. I need to be able to deal with all the glamorousness that is the life of a SAHP without tiny hands constantly clutching at my pants, making it near impossible to walk without someone falling over. Without listening to sometimes constant-seeming crying and fussing, or stopping every 12 minutes to nurse, or allowing them to "help," or PATIENTLY removing them over and over again from wherever it is they're ALL UP IN MAH BIDNESS.
So I let them watch shows, and sometimes an actual movie. BUT. Remember that whole picky theme? Well, it totally comes into play here. We don't have TV because the vast majority of TV makes us twitch uncontrollably in horrified disbelief. This goes DOUBLY for children's TV. Now, I've been a connoisseur of children's TV and movies for many, many years, as that's sort of in the job description of a nanny. But my gods, people. There is such an enormous excess of jaw-droppingly obnoxious children's shows and movies out there these days, I am just...appalled. I have tried so many via Netflix or Amazon and literally just shut them down after a minute or two. Even if it's just on in the background, it needs to not make me want to scream or vomit or pull my hair out or any other supremely melodramatic and highly unlikely antic I could insert here.
Combine this with the fact that my freaking KIDS are picky as hell, and well, you have a recipe for a very selective library of acceptable shows. As in, like, three. And two movies. That's it. We started out with Backyardigans because I remembered them from years ago and the show is just adorably awesome. Catchy songs, singing, dancing, imaginative play, episodes that play homage to genres and characters/stories parents will totally get and appreciate (Star Trek, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, and Jules Verne, to name a few of my favourites). I LOVE BACKYARDIGANS. Then came Pocoyo. Simple, cute animation, a little boy and his few friends (primarily a duck a an elephant), short clips, relevant themes, the main character is kind of a shit sometimes... Realistic and adorable. Then came Pingu. And I admittedly was not especially keen on Pingu to begin with, but a friend suggested we try it again and it quickly became a family favourite. Claymation penguins with zero intelligible dialogue, a quaint, Antarctic, small-town setting, family themes like a new baby, stressed out mama, and kids who act out (main character is also kind of a shit...hmmm...). Basically, it's fantastic and highly entertaining and I love it. (The movies that have gotten tiny thumbs up are Cars and Shrek, by the way, but they are viewed much more infrequently and were only added to the library recently--and Shrek is still sort of hit or miss).
So these were the shows in our rotation until nearly two weeks ago, when lots of things started falling apart. The Barbarian, who has a new job as of a few weeks ago, after 10 years at his old job, will now be traveling for work regularly (I can only imagine this will be fodder for many post to come--stay tuned). Fortunately, they started us out easy with just an overnighter the Monday before last, but it seemed to have a ginormous effect on The Goblin Queen.
I'm not sure if I've mentioned, but she is a daddy's girl, through and through. First thing she does upon waking in the morning is glance over at him, smile, and say, "Dada!" First thing upon waking from nap is to ask for Dada. For a while there, while I was changing her diaper, an activity she especially despises, she would sob, "Dada!" ...as if she could handle the travesty if only Dada was performing the necessary duty. He would get home from work, the dogs normally alerting us to his presence as they race to and whine at the back door, and she would RUN to the door, no matter in what she had previously been engaged.
But seemingly about the time of that first overnighter, things changed. She no longer ran to the door upon his arrival or asked for him upon waking. She eventually stopped demanding he rock her to sleep, her usual nighttime request. And in addition to these Dada-centered changes, she began to be OBSESSED with Pocoyo. She would ask for it upon waking in the morning (they almost never get shows in the morning, nor do they normally ask for them). She would ask for it upon waking from nap, and as she almost always wakes before King Toad Agooga, she would become beyond upset when I wouldn't get up and put it on right away, eventually crying and nearly hyperventilating (and risking waking KTA up) in her continued request.
In addition to this, she outright REFUSED to watch either of her other beloved shows all of a sudden. She would just emphatically shake her head when I asked, and when I put another one on in the hopes she would eventually acquiesce once it started, she would fuss and cry and ask for Pocoyo. The behaviour has even begun rubbing off on KTA and he now prefers only Pocoyo. What the hell?
Part of it, I think, has to do with the fact that the start of this new obsession occurred around the time she became able to ask for the show by name. And for a toddler newly on the awesome adventure that is learning to talk, being able to use the correct words to ask for what you want--and be understood--is HUGE. I can't even fathom how gratifying it must be after months and months of trying to get your point across with mixed results, and often in vain. So I get that this is most likely influencing her preference for this show. That makes perfect sense.
But around the same time, something else started happening in relation to the show. I couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly she was reacting to for a while, but I finally realized that her occasional freakouts during the show were in response to one of the characters, Elly, the big, pink elephant. Now, again, this is a show she's watched for months and months, and has always loved and never gotten upset about. But all of a sudden, whenever Elly came on the screen, she would shriek and often run or look to me for reassurance. Sometimes she would run into the kitchen and only watch by peering around the shelves by the doorway to the main room where the TV is located. At the very least, she would make it known that she was NOT okay with Elly's appearance on-screen, and I was able to confirm that it was Elly that made her upset by asking her once I made the connection.
Being that the show is completely benign and something she's been okay with for a long time, I have zero clue what's actually upsetting her about Elly, but it's clear that whatever it is is a pretty big deal for her. Yet she demands to watch the show at every chance. She is clearly working through something that is making this dichotomy apparent, and I wish I had some insight into what it might be.
But I don't. And so because this show has become such an obsession and elicits such intense and often negative behaviour and reaction in her, we are taking an indefinite break from Pocoyo. I'm really not sure what else to do. But she seems okay with it. I've just been telling her that Pocoyo is all gone and we can't watch it anymore. It's been a few days and she still asks for it, but doesn't do the near-hysterical plea she was performing daily, and I think that's making all of us feel better. They're actually not really asking for shows much at all post-nap now, and I think that's a good thing.
So, in conclusion, toddlers are complex and fascinating creatures--in case you were unaware. They are learning and processing information at an enormous rate, and that affects them in ways we can't even begin to anticipate or imagine. But we are their most important allies on this epic journey to adulthood, and I think respectful and loving limit-setting is one of the most effective and supportive things we can do for them.
It's a delicate balance most of the time, but a worthy endeavour.
And endeavour, we shall.