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Jane Roper

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Jane Roper is the author of the memoir Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and blogger at Her writing has appeared on Babble, Salon, The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and the upcoming anthology The Push: Birth Stories for the 21st Century. Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters.

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Our New Buddy in the Basement

By Jane Roper |

As you may recall, a little over a year ago, my parents generously paid for us to finish part of our basement as a playroom for the girls. It is an awesome space, with plenty of toys, two desks, a CD player and a little nook with a cut-out window, suitable for playing store or putting on puppet shows. It’s cool in the summer, too — another big plus in our non-AC’ed home. Only problem: the girls almost never play there.

It’s still great to have as a storage space for toys. But on the rare occasions that the girls *do* play there — it tends to happen more often when friends are over — it’s really nice to have a little more physical and mental space upstairs, knowing that they’re happily, safely, self-sufficiently playing on their own.

The reason they don’t like to play downstairs, they say, is that they’re lonely there. Even though they’ve got each other. So, sometimes we’ll go down and play with them a little, get them started on something, then pull the old “I’ll be right back…I just have to, um, check on something…” trick and sneak away (tiptoeing like cartoon characters, hunched over, with staccato violin accompaniment) hoping they won’t notice. But they usually do.

But now we have a new strategy. And I am somewhat conflicted over this. I really am. But when we were up at my parents’ house last weekend, my dad had set up a TV/VCR combo in the little basement playroom area at *their* house, along with a huge set of VHS tapes salvaged from their town dump swap shop. And in the mornings, when I was trying to catch a little extra shut eye, I let the girls go downstairs and watch an hour of Mary Poppins or a Winnie The Pooh cartoon. And when my dad offered to let me take the VCR player and some tapes back home with us, well, I waffled for a few minutes, but landed on the side of yes.

So, yes, bad parent, using videos to get extra sleep / a little reprieve / space / etc. But here’s the more PC fringe benefit: the girls will stay in the basement when the tape is over and play. And overall, they seem to be more inclined to play in the basement now that their buddy the TV is there, even if they’re not watching it.

We try not to let the girls have more than an hour of “screen time” per day. And when they do ask to watch something, we’re more likely than not to suggest and encourage another non-plugged in activity first. But I gotta say. I’m really kind of digging our new buddy in the basement. (Is that wrong?)

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About Jane Roper


Jane Roper

Jane Roper is the author of the memoir Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and blogger at Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters.

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8 thoughts on “Our New Buddy in the Basement

  1. Korinthia says:

    I think it’s fine. We only limit screen time if it’s getting in the way of something. No screens until everyone is done with homework, no TV during family dinner, or if their room is too messy…. And most of the time when they use the TV they are also making paper projects and playing with toys. I think people are too quick to call it evil and I’m not sure why. Maybe because it looks lazy. But my kids are active and fun and creative so I don’t see the harm.

  2. Blair says:

    I agree that a TV in a play area is not a bad choice. We have had one in Sophia’s play area in the basement since we have actually had a basement to create one in, and at first it really helped her to transition to that area and not feel completely seperated or (even worse) discluded from anything else going on in the rest of the house. She didn’t always turn it on, but she also does tons of other things while the tv is on. If it helps them to transition to a different space and make it a relaxing AND stimulating place to be, there’s nothing wrong with a “basement” buddy.

  3. Amy says:

    One of the best things we ever did was put a cd player in my daughters play room (this is where most of her toys are because she has a baby brother that loves to chew on her stuff). She has a little CD collection (some They Might Be Giants, Raffi, the obligatory Princess sing along cd, etc). She decides what to play, it provides background noise, and I swear, it keeps her happily playing and pretending for a long while; the bonus is that I don’t get the guilt over screen time. It is a win-win for us.

  4. CS says:

    Not a bad thing! For a while I beat myself over resorting to placating my daughter with watching shows on my ipod, but when she started waking up at 4 and 5am and my husband and I were no longer speaking because we were so tired, it no longer seemed like such a crime. And it’s not! Some people may argue that kids used to play outside and be more imaginative before they had tv and digital devices, but we are no longer bringing our kids up in the same world. In the time when kids played outside, it was safer to let your kids out of your house without hovering, and also parents used to have extended family living either with them, next door or nearby. These things are no longer the case- modern parents are bringing up their kids in a totally different context. I limit the tv time, but I remind myself that I’m human too, not to mention that I am working, going to school and just need personal space.

  5. Cheri says:

    I would never get dinner on the table without our ol’ buddy T.V. to babysit, I mean, entertain my little guy. Plus, what else would I threaten him with – as in you’d better put some pants on, OR NO TV.

  6. Lin says:

    I know plenty of adults that will have the tv on in a lonely room as company! As long as you don’t have it hooked up to cable or have adult movies they can start, I’d say a bit of unaccompanied screen time isn’t going to do long term damage. ;)

  7. Rosstwinmom says:

    So wait, our goal is not to teach the kids to watch TV so we can play on our new iphones? Damn, got it wrong again.

    I try to get them going on a toy/game/project as well and then sneak out like I’m a cat burglar. I learned it by watching(reading) you mom(Jane)!!

  8. April says:

    Girl, no guilt. Mine get way more than one hour of screen time most days and I don’t freaking care! They get plenty of non screen time too and that is all that matters. If it works, do it! You play with your girls and they are so smart. You really don’t have to mommy guilt about it!

    Mine have their playroom upstairs and even now with it being in the middle of everything, they still hardly go in there alone! I have joked it is more of a toy storage room. They will go in there to play with the train table. That is it. The rest of the time they like to take the toys over a couple feet to the living room to play with them. They play in their bedroom too at night if they are not sleepy right away. Mine also only really seem to super play when friends come over. Rest of the time they try to be up our butts.

    I have been ignoring them more and more lately with no tv on so that they will play alone or together. It has been working! Praise Jesus! I have actually done chores while they are awake some! Micah and I can actually watch a short show or something while they are awake! That is not something that has happened before up till recently.

    I just read the “Free Range Kids” book and it said you should not feel guilt about ignoring your kids and refusing to play with them all the time. It will encourage them to learn to play alone and develop their own games and stories, etc. I have been trying it and it really works! :) I still feel a little guilt I don’t give them 100% of my attention 24/7 like I used to, but I don’t think that was doing anyone any good.

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