I thought it would be so simple to start imposing the no-TV-during-dinner rule. The goal was to eventually ease out the need or want for TV during meals. The first obstacle was explaining it to the kids.
“But why do we have to turn off the TV?” The Tactless Child asked.
“So we can talk about our day,” I said.
“We can talk about it now so later when we eat, we don’t need to talk anymore,” she said.
I figured if I responded to that, I’d talk myself into a corner. So I tried it another way.
“We need to focus on eating and not on watching when we eat dinner,” I said.
“But I can eat and watch at the same time,” The Tactless Child said. “I think that’s why God didn’t put my eyes inside my mouth.”
Decades ago, she would probably have been made to kneel on a plate of salt for that, but I was actually filled with pride. Gosh, my six-year-old can talk circles around her mother.
The One Who Spits didn’t need reason. “Turn off! Turn off!” he said when he noticed that we were sitting at the table for dinner and the TV was not on. (He has yet to understand opposites.)
After a ten-minute discussion with The Tactless Child, I came to about a hair-width of turning the TV back on. But I stood my ground and finally got the two seated and quiet.
Thanks to the wonderful ability of kids to adapt, we actually did have a conversation over dinner. One of the things we talked about was how The Tactless Child wanted a pet puppy and a pet kitten.
“When you’re older and can take care of them yourself,” I told her.
She said, “How about we get them now and I’ll watch you take care of them so when I’m older I’ll know what to do?”
The One Who Spits amused himself by announcing “Made otot!” to no one in particular every time he passed gas. Had The Hub been at dinner then, this would have merited a discussion. But I was too caught up watching for The Tactless Child’s vocal maneuverings that I couldn’t scold gas announcements at the same time.
The other obstacle was keeping the kids in their seats. Without the TV keeping them riveted, they felt restless, I think. The Tactless Child kept getting up and showing me dance moves. And When he reached his five-minute limit for sitting still, The One Who Spits took to jumping in his high chair.
Despite all that, both kids finished their dinner without the noisy distraction of the TV. I now understand, to a point, why some parents who subscribe to the Waldorf method of education drape curtains over their TV sets to discourage their kids from watching any TV. I’m not sure if we’ll get to that point (and I’m not sure if I want to). But I’ve found a good and healthy challenge in TV-less mealtimes.
It is stressful, sure – we’ve been doing this for a week and, until now, dinner every day is preceded by 10 minutes of lawyering by The Tactless Child. On the other hand, The One Who Spits, who has considerably less vocabulary, has adjusted, more or less. He now accepts that dinner time is no-TV time. He has stuck to his gas announcements routine, though. I hope that by the time Week 52 rolls around, we’ll have nailed TV-less breakfast and TV-less lunch as well.