Posted by: laughs4dads | December 27, 2010

TV Confessional, Part I

When our daughter, Casey, was a baby, we let her watch hours and hours of television. She’s 24 now, and she turned out just fine if you ignore the fact that all she does is sit around and watch TV.

Casey began watching TV when she was about two months old. We found that the best way to get Casey to sit still was to perch her in front of MTV. This was 1986, remember, when MTV still showed music videos.  The music, no matter how raucous, had a calming effect. I don’t think this would work for today’s parents, because “The Jersey Shore” probably wouldn’t put a baby in the same, serene place. But you never know; give it a try.

At six months, Casey became a fan of wrestling.  She didn’t so much like the actual matches; she preferred the interviews.  She would stop whatever she was doing to listen to the guys scream into the microphone with their gritty voices.  “I’m going to break both his legs and end his career,” they would say, and Casey would laugh as if she was watching a cartoon.  Her favorite wrestler was Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

At eight months, she started watching “Wheel of Fortune.”  I couldn’t understand this, as I never heard Casey guess a puzzle before the contestants, not even once when somebody had “AS EASY AS P – E” and needed to buy a vowel.  Then I realized she just liked watching the wheel go around.  I guess the blur of colors appealed to her, although I never heard her yell “Come on, $5,000!”

On Saturday mornings, Casey watched “The Smurfs,” but that was mostly because it was Barbara’s favorite show. While it was on, Casey was usually disassembling the weekend newspaper as if she was expecting a house-broken elephant to visit. 

As you can tell, Casey was not all that into what might be called “educational programming.” This leads me to a second admission: we let her watch whatever the hell she wanted to. If it was capable of holding her attention for ten or more consecutive seconds or, at least, diverting her momentarily from her all-time favorite activity, which was banging pots and pans with as little rhythm and as much volume as possible, it was okay with us. If her choices were, um, let us say not conducive to a future as a nuclear scientist or brain surgeon, so be it.

In case you’re thinking that, in order for Casey to have access to this highbrow programming, one or more of her parents had to be watching it in the first place, and, that, therefore, I have just confirmed all your suspicions about the IQ of the average TV viewer, I hasten to point out that Barb and I also watched “60 Minutes” and Casey showed no interest in that whatsoever, although she did chuckle once at one of Andy Rooney’s remarks.

Actually, Casey had already become competent with a remote control by then. Remote controls have buttons and, as every baby knows, buttons are in this world to be indiscriminately pressed.  She would often take the remote unit in her little, chocolate-covered hands and flip randomly through the channels until she found something she liked or had caused the batteries to pop out of the unit by banging it against the bricks of the fireplace.  Unlike adult zappers, her channel surfing did not occur only during commercials; in fact, she particularly liked to change channels during the climactic scenes of 30-hour miniseries that her parents had been watching for three weeks, so that, often, just as the murderer was about to be revealed, we’d find ourselves watching the home shopping network.

In those prehistoric days, we had a VCR instead of a DVD player, and Casey discovered that it not only had buttons, it had the additional feature of flashing lights.  This meant that, more often than not, her parents were trying to make sense of a movie that was running in forward search and whose characters sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Now you may be thinking, “Hey, if they were really good parents, they wouldn’t have exposed their child to so much television.  They would have had a classical music playlist on their iPods and played it through speakers.”

Shows what you know! We didn’t have iPods back in the stone age! And, anyway, Casey had this thing with music. When she heard music, she wanted to dance.  And she wasn’t bad at it, either.  Except that she wasn’t very discriminating in her music selection.  She would dance to any music, even if it was a commercial jingle or the background music in a TV show. And she expected any human being in the room, as well as four or five stuffed animals, to dance with her.  If you’ve ever tried to do the twist to the song they play during Final Jeopardy, you’ll know why we didn’t have music playing often in our house.

To be continued…

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