Real Momma YYZ is a series featuring – you guessed it – the real life adventures of a real Toronto mom (not Heather) and her first baby.
Oona by Visa Kopu
When talking about my baby’s love of television, I have gotten my share of sidelong looks. You know, the kind of looks that would be outright horrified stares if the people I was talking to knew me well enough to let it all hang out. The people who know me well enough to let it all hang out are also people whose babies know a thing or two about TV. But I understand the looks. A few short months ago, I would have been dishing them out myself.
Television was right up there with pacifiers as something I would never use. My baby simply wouldn’t be exposed to such things. He would not have his feelings stuffed down by a soother; if he felt like crying, why then, he should let it out. He would not be plopped in front of a TV set babysitter; I would hold, cuddle and play with him eighteen hours a day.
Then I had the baby…
We held out on pacifiers for four weeks before he became intimately acquainted with the joys of his orthodontic Nuk soo-soo. Ironically, at nearly six months, he has hated the thing for a long time now and resists any attempts to stuff down his feelings with a little piece of plastic. So my worries about having to wean him off a soother when he’s old enough to hold down an intelligent conversation have proved to be unfounded. As for television, it might be a different story.
We first noticed the little tyke had an affinity for the TV when he was about three months old. Having just emerged from the newborn cocoon, we were trying to recapture a vestige of our old lives by attempting to watch some TV at the end of the evening before we passed out. Baby should probably have been in bed, but he didn’t want to go and we didn’t want to spend the evening making him. So on went the TV. The sound and pictures clearly captivated the babe, but we really didn’t want him watching The Dark Knight, so we put him in his Fisher-Price bouncy chair and let the auto-tuned Caribbean music entertain him for awhile.
by Yoshihide Nomura
I hadn’t failed to notice his interest, though, and thought I’d better put in a DVD for him soon – perhaps one of the Baby Einstein’s given to me by a friend whose kids were already in grade school. But at my weekly parenting group, Susan*, the public health nurse in charge of the program, told us that this once-popular series of baby DVDs, books, toys and activities has been discredited.
“What’s so bad about it?” asked one of the moms.
“They claimed the DVDs made babies more intelligent, but it turned out there was no actual research to prove those claims,” Susan explained, adding that she had put her own babies in front of the videos ‘for half a day’ and they’d just stare at the TV vacantly. Perhaps she saw the guilt and confusion written on a few faces because she added, “Of course there are times you’ll use TV. But low-tech is best. You’re still their favourite toy, their learning partner.”
Though the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends limited exposure to television for young children, my husband and I made the decision that a little TV couldn’t hurt – after all, we were smart, and had learned a lot of what we knew from television. But we didn’t want our baby watching Treehouse; the shows are surprisingly fast paced, loud and complex for a baby, producing that vacant stare. I remembered having seen a Rogers preview for a channel geared to babies under the age of 3, and a little investigation led us to BabyTV (channel 232 on your digital dial).
The station shows specially developed programming, all of it educational, all of it relatively soft and slow. There are no commercials. Most of the shows are only a few minutes long, with a focus on colours and shapes, and they have wonderfully catchy jingles. Programs are often narrated by people with cool British accents. At $5 per month, it seems well worth it in terms of the freedom it allows Momma (imagine, showering for longer than five minutes!)
Watching TV by Visa Kopu
Baby loves BabyTV…perhaps a little too much. In the morning, when we sing songs and play with toys in the living room, if there is a lull in the action, he invariably turns towards the black screen, waiting for his colourful friends to appear. When working out some excitement in the Jolly Jumper, he will actually jump in a circle, aiming for the television with each jump in the hopes of seeing where Grandpa is hiding or whose birthday it is. This usually leads to pangs of guilt, and fears that I am creating a future TV addict – the kind who won’t go out and play in the sun because there’s a movie marathon on.
In my post-natal moms’ group, where all the babies were born within weeks of my son, most moms won’t admit to using TV to entertain their babies – yet. In fact, on one outing, a mom asked me to switch seats because her daughter was able to see, from the patio we sat on, a distant screen playing inside a bar. “No TV!” she squeaked. I cringed. Later, one of the other mothers admitted that she puts her baby in front of the TV.
“Baby TV?” I whispered conspiratorially. She looked taken aback. “No. The Kardashians.”
Maybe it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen. Will our son be a helpless TV addict or a well informed, worldly boy? As with anything else, I’m not willing to avoid all risk. All I can do is set reasonable limits. He’s going to see TV soon enough anyway. This way, he’ll be prepared…even for the Kardashians.
*Name has been changed