On the home front:

I have two preschool-aged sons, and this summer, I have slipped into letting them watch a LOT of TV. For me, a lot means between 2 and 3 hours a day. It’s all qubo or PBS or educational kid videos, but I have always viewed TV as an unquestionable evil. Yesterday, however, much to my surprise, I had some compassionate thoughts about the poor maligned television. Or maybe just some compassionate thoughts about myself as a parent – that my great struggle to limit their TV watching is not purely my personal weakness, and that there are greater powers at work here.

It occurred to me that the nature of work has changed drastically in just one generation. My work, for instance, as an editor and writer (such as it is), has changed drastically in just ten years – whereas I did most of my editing work on hard copies up to, say, five years ago, now I do ALL of it on the computer. I’m sure the shift from hard- to soft-copy has happened in virtually every discipline – what we used to use our hands to do, we now do on the computer. Kids’ play is going to reflect this, too. The reason why it’s so hard for me to do physical things with my kids ALL day is because I have gotten out of the habit of physicality myself. Also, the grownup goal of play now is to sit in front of a computer. The way we entertain ourselves has reflected this, the workplace is reflecting this, and our parenting/home life will reflect this more and more.

And for some reason, realizing this made me relax a little bit. It’s not just me; it’s our whole society moving in this direction. It’s much bigger than my individual will or my individual values. Surely we got here as a society because we uncritically accepted each new form of media as unquestioned progress, and surely the way out is to together begin to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each form of media as a tool and not a god. But day-to-day, we can take the pressure off of ourselves as parents – it’s bigger than just us. Not to be fatalistic, but to shed unhelpful and paralyzing guilt.

And shedding that paralyzing guilt has the direct benefit of releasing energy to think of a small thing I CAN do each day to get closer to my goal of one hour of TV a day. For instance, one thing I know I need to get better at is inviting people over during the day so the full weight of being project manager for my kids doesn’t fall solely on me. I’m the polar opposite of a camp counselor – I’d rather be sitting (i.e. not moving), reading a book or writing, any moment of the day – just like I did almost everyday as a kid. I’ve always had a struggle with being active, with being embodied – I’ve always been just one big brain. That’s my personality and my habit, and my culture certainly reinforces that physically passive tendency. My kids are crazy-active, and love being physical. I’m ready to dump the guilt that I’m rotting their brains, admit that I have a pretty passive idea of fun, and get some help from other parents who are more active than I. I don’t have to be everything to my kids – and then, as I collapse, turn on the TV in despair. Even though I can’t instantly change the screen-dependence of our culture (and I certainly want my kids to be equipped to fully enter into such a culture, if only to effectively change it), I can at least get some help from some friends on a daily or weekly basis. Parenting has become such an isolating activity, but it doesn’t have to be.