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Screw It—My Toddler Watches a Lot of TV and I Don't Care

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m a stay-at-home mom and here’s my confession: I let my daughter watch way too much TV.

While the others in my mom group are coming up with art projects and building forts with their toddlers, mine is learning jingles from Daniel Tiger and getting overstimulated from watching "Trolls" on repeat.

This isn’t to say we aren’t busy. In fact, getting out of the house—getting out anywhere, really—during the weekdays keeps her (and me) from going stir crazy. We have plenty of activities we’ve found where she's able to interact with other kids and sometimes just an adventure to the mall is pretty much the best thing ever, according to a 2-year-old.

She also loves helping out around the house: putting the clean dishes away, helping me with laundry and feeding the dog are all great ways she can learn responsibility.

But, seriously, the girl is still probably watching way too much TV during the day. I used to care. I used to have a ton of guilt, thinking I was screwing her up forever. After all, don’t they say screen time, regardless of what it is, is detrimental to kids’ mental well-being? She may not have her own iPad, but she’s perfected that zoned-in stare that would rival my husband’s during basketball season.

Am I just perpetuating a vicious cycle of her being completely unable to play independently while I’m occupied? Maybe. I don’t know.

I’m a writer by profession and most of the work I do is done during the work week, just like so many other parents. Nap time is that sacred time, when I’m either diligently writing articles like this one, or shooting off emails to editors while keeping one eye on "Pretty Little Liars." Unfortunately, my work-from-home status also means I’m doing whatever I can to distract the kid so I can actually do my job. The only distraction that's guaranteed to work every time? You guessed it: TV.

Coloring and Play-Doh only go so far. If we’re playing and I pull out the laptop, it’s screech city until I’m back to rolling Play-Doh balls with her. Enter the TV.

Forget preparing dinner. Trust me, I’ve tried to be that attentive mom that encourages her child to cook with her, or at least play with the pots and pans. It only results in her crawling through my legs like a demented snake, making figure eights about five minutes after I let her measure out the spaghetti into the pot. And don’t forget the screeching. So, the TV turns on and I can finish making dinner in peace.

Am I just perpetuating a vicious cycle of her being completely unable to play independently while I’m occupied? Maybe. I don’t know. Who really knows anything about this damn parenting thing, anyway?

All I know is that I had a lot of guilty feelings awhile back, and I refuse to continue to believe that I’m not as good of a mother as the one who is somehow able to keep the TV off during the day.

I’m teaching my daughter to have a sense of adventure amidst the ordinary. We explore the leaves outside, visit the fun water park and find the hidden gems that are the free kids’ activities around town. And sometimes—OK, many times—that ordinary time is spent hanging out and watching a movie while Mom sneaks in some alone time.

Adventure amidst the TV time. It’s all about balance, right?

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