We’ve been spending a lot of time these past few days on the couch, watching TV as a family. I don’t typically advocate lots of TV time for young children, although I don’t ban it from my house. I agree that getting my almost three year old out and about, encouraging her creativity, and generally keeping her physically and mentally active is much more desirable than television shows. Unfortunately, we’ve all been under the weather this week. My daughter had Roseola, which is a viral infection characterized by a high fever and then a rash. I seem to have picked up some kind of garden variety cold which is mostly resolved but still dragging me down. And my husband, who is typically the healthiest one in the family, is battling an infected toe with warm soaks and bandages. So quiet time on the couch in front of the TV has been very appealing this week.
I have to confess, I really like watching TV with my daughter. First of all, when she’s watching TV, particularly when she’s not feeling good, she’s actually cuddly. She’ll snuggle up to me and let me hold her for extended periods. Which is a bit of a rare treat. My daughter is many things- inquisitive, intelligent, adventurous, creative, affectionate – but she is not a sit still and cuddle kind of kid. I am a cuddly kind of Mommy, but snuggles are not the kind of thing that I can (or want to) force. So I have to take advantage of the cuddles where I can find them.
Second, I still really enjoy kids movies. Most of the movies we own that are kid appropriate predate my daughter’s birth and actually belong to me. Hey, I admit it – I still love Disney cartoons (and also Pixar, now owned by Disney, and DreamWorks). I like the playfulness, the color, the escape from reality and the happy endings. I also think that keeping movies kid friendly by placing limits on violence, sex and language forces better story telling. The writers have to use actual narrative to keep the movie engaging. I particularly love old fairy tales, which are among the first things I can remember reading for myself as a child. I know the animation studios sanitize them, sometimes beyond recognition, but that’s ok. I know the original stories and I can read them whenever I want. Part of the charm is seeing what new twist can be placed on an old classic. So I am okay with her movie selections. I don't even mind watching the same things over and over again, at least not much.
Third, I am taking joy in sharing my old favorites with my daughter. Her favorite movies are The Muppet Movie (a 1979 film that tells the story of how the muppets got together to create the muppet show) and The Muppets (a 2011 film about a muppets reunion in an effort to save their studio from a greedy oil baron). I adored The Muppet Movie as a child, and watched it over and over, just as my daughter does now. So I really get a kick out of hearing her talk about Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo and reciting lines from the movie. We introduced her to Cinderella recently, which was another childhood favorite, and it went over really well too. Some movies are still too old for her (she is not quite three and so of course is still easily scared by some things – sharks, kids getting separated from their parents) but I am looking forward to sharing more and more of my own favorites with her as she gets older.
Fourth, I love popcorn, and nothing goes better with a movie than popcorn. I have many memories of watching movies with my parents and sister (these were special occasions when Mary Poppins came on TV once a year or so, since we didn’t have a VCR until I was 7 or 8) with a large bowl of popcorn shared among us. Happily for me my daughter also shares my love of this salty treat, and so our cuddles are made even better by sharing a bowl of crunchy goodness. We do make the low fat microwave version instead of the oil popped over the stove kind I remember from childhood (faster, easier, less mess, less fat) but otherwise I feel like I am recreating a family tradition for her.
Hopefully by the weekend we will all be back to good health and we can go back to our usual policy of limited TV and high levels of activity. I know that it in the long run it is healthier for all of us to be off the couch. In the meantime, however, please pass the popcorn.