In this house, we have been hostages to a 2 year old. Every toddler out there in the world fixates on something. It's in their nature. As kids grow and realize that they are separate from their mothers and that they can control their legs, arms, voices, they want to use that power to control Something Else. For some it's a blankie, a doll, a toy, their clothes, etc. In our house it's the television.
Well, actually, it's the DVD player. My son is obsessed with movies.
When he wakes up in the morning, he likes a little snuggle. I speak to him softly, asking him if he slept well, telling him a little about what we need to do that day. I know it's only a matter of time before he looks up at me, smiles sweetly and asks, "Mo-Mo?" That is toddler-speak in our house for movies. Now you think any old movie would do, or that you could distract him with some wholesome public television programming....not so. No Way. Not gonna happen. At the tender age of two, he is a conoissueur of animation.
Not only is he VERY picky, he knows what he wants to watch. He doesn't verbalize much yet, so choosing movies is usually a matter of holding up the DVD case and watching his reactions. "No!" followed by unhappy screaming is a very telling way to see what he doesn't want to watch. When we've happened upon the one he does want to watch, he chortles with glee and let's out a stream of unrecognizable happy gibberish, grabs the case out of our hands and loads the movie into the dvd player.
Yes, he loads his own movies. He insists on it. We've tried to stop him, since we've already lost one expensive dvd player (a 5-disc changer he tried putting about 12 movies in) and 2 dvds (one belonging to the public library). We spent months with the glass doors to our entertainment system taped shut. He learned to remove the tape. He insists as only toddlers can, on doing it himself. Sometimes, he'll load a movie we've foolishly allowed him to be able to reach, watch the previews, take it out, load it again, watch the previews again, and so on and so on. He even knows how to press the fast forward button until the menu comes up and then he can press play. It's rather inspiring to see such mechanical genius in one so young. Sort of. (I didn't like having to buy another DVD-player).
If by some chance someone else in our family wants to use the television for Nintendo, their own movies, or say, actually watch television, things get ugly. Remember when the Tasmanian Devil chewed and snarled and spit his way through the forest to where Bugs Bunny was standing with his carrot? It's like that but worse. I usually respond to this outburst with "Oh Honey, I'm sorry you're upset...But you don't get to control the television. Don't forget to kick your legs while you're down there throwing your fit!" I do not give in. He watches enough movies while no one else is at home. Plus I don't want him to always have that much power in our house. I don't like being held hostage, and I'm bigger than he is.
We only have one television. This was a choice we made purposefully. We only have one dvd player (a cheap one this time, in case the DVD commando breaks it again somehow). We bought a Nintendo gamecube long after the initial release of the machine. We limit the time it's on. We have "No Screen Time" days where we do things BESIDES watching television and playing computer games. We enjoy the television for entertainment (LOVE the digital recording feature of our cable box), but don't let it rule our lives. We are more than what we watch.
But how do you teach that lesson to an obsessed two-year-old? In this house, we go for a little at a time. We go for walks. I take him to the park. We go to the library. We run around the house. We run around the yard. We read books. We go outside and get wet and muddy and play with chalk. We play dinosaurs or Little People or Rescue Heroes. It's not easy--especially when the television is so easy. Pixar makes a great product. I can sit through their movies again and again. And it's hilarious to watch my toddler mimic all of the sounds at the beginning of Monsters Inc. (from the "THX" mwangh sound to the screaming of the "child" during the new recruit's test...he does them all). But when you start thinking that the butler Edgar should have bumped off the old lady instead of the Aristocats, you've watched the movie too many times.
I'm not sure how this hostage crisis will end. My husband and I are doing our best to balance his movie watching with other wholesome pursuits. Who knows? Maybe the television world will get to the point that we won't WANT to watch it any more. All we can do now is monitor what our children DO watch. And move the dvds to a higher shelf and hope our two year old doesn't learn how to climb.
And that's the other side.