The Family Channel

SpongeBob Televison

Sofie's still the one to turn off the television before me. Unless there's something for supper she doesn't want.

I will admit her watching has increased from a couple years ago. At six and a half, she deserves some indulgence in TV watching, especially on crummy, rainy, cold days. I was the same as a kid - probably more so - and how can I fault her tastes when she's introduced me to the intellectual joys of SpongeBob Squarepants?

But then there are those weekend mornings. By this age she's learned that she doesn't need to wake me up as soon as she has, make her own breakfast and get started lazily with her day. Still, often in my early morning haze I don't hear the television go on. I will hear talking. That might sound a little funny in a household consisting entirely of a single parent (sleeping) and a single child (awake).

When I do emerge from my slumber, quietly so as to not disturb her, I'll find one of two things: my daughter reading out loud from a book, or her drawing while speaking out the dialogue out the characters in her story.

That's always preferable to the dreaded Hannah Montana phenomenon. I've been able to resist this, mostly, by making it clear that I really do not like this pre-packaged commercial Disney Girl-of-the-Moment. That this star will disappear, mostly likely, as soon as she ages out of her series is a concept I've introduced with mixed results to Sofie. This is a cultural force, I understand, and one that, outside of the US, cannot be avoided by a girl between the ages of 4 and 14.

I'll admit there's one advantage to television over artwork or reading. Watching TV, by itself, is clean. It does not spread books all over the couch and floor, pencils, pens, papers, scissors and little tidbits of clipped something-or-others onto the kitchen counters and beyond.

With the attendant cleanup that I, as parent, demand of her following all sorts of non-television-oriented activity, I can only be happy that she hasn't seen the perverse logic. TV = no cleanup. Or maybe she just doesn't like television that much.

I'm trying to figure out how we got here, to this point of non-infatuation with television. Maybe that's a backward way to see it. Perhaps, television is less a priority than other more intellectually stimulating activities. Regardless, I'm trying to figure out what I may have done right.

It's not like she hasn't watched television from an early age. On the contrary, "Mary Poppins" was part of her morning routine. After breakfast and changing, I'd park her on the couch and put that one movie on. Every morning, the same movie. And she'd fall asleep watching, while I could get some work done.

Was it reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" every night before bedtime? She never really cared for "Goodnight Moon," so maybe that should have been the tipoff. Nursery rhymes were OK, but this girl's always wanted a plot.

Could it be her bilingualism, and having grown up in Germany and the U.S., with both languages? Joseph Conrad came to Britain from Poland, speaking little English, and he seemed to have developed some gift for creativity, some say. Maybe it is using different parts of the brain that does it. Television does seem to command attention completely, and especially one part of the brain - the TV-watching part.

Of all things, however, it may come down to something as superficial as different tastes in television. We just don't watch the same things, and we've pretty much segregated our watching. When I watch, it's on the set in my bedroom. For her, it's the living room. She enjoys endless re-runs of her kids shows. I like endless reruns of more sophisticated programs. Like "Star Trek."

So with such incompatibility in viewing, why watch alone when you there are other pursuits that can be done alone? Reading. Drawing. There is a tangible sense of accomplishment with either. A book can be held up - I read this. A drawing can be put on the wall - I drew this. Can't do that with a TV show.

Maybe it is that simple. Or maybe a combination of everything, along with some random genetic variations. Whatever the reason, there's a great disincentive to upgrade to a flat screen HD television. Smarter to spend the money on books, crayons, scissors, construction paper, and definitely a new vacuum.

 

Read this and Andy's other columns online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

 

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