Joel travels a lot and when he’s not here, here’s how it goes with Laszlo in the morning:
Me: I have to go to the bathroom.
Laz: I want to come with you! (I have a helicopter kid.)
Me: I have to poop, Laszlo.
Laz: I want to come with you!
Me: Why don’t you go play with your trains?
Laz: I want to come with you!
Me: Do you want to watch “Doc McStuffins?”
Although I’m not a fan of sticking my kid in front of the boob tube, there are times, like those, when it needs to be done. Joel doesn’t approve of Laszlo watching TV. Which is annoying, since I don’t feel like he has a right to weigh in if he’s not around to watch Laszlo while I go to the bathroom.
Joel’s disapproval is also ironic, because TV has helped make Joel a lot of money. He’s writes about pop culture for TIME. He has sold sitcom scripts and written for TV shows. He regularly shows up on TV as a talking head and on talk shows and news shows. In his early 20’s, he even won a game show on MTV, thanks to his extensive knowledge of the show “Taxi.”
We first discovered the power of TV when Laszlo was less than two years old and he was having an asthma attack. We needed to give him a 20-minute breathing treatment with a nebulizer, every two hours. A nebulizer is a little machine that dispenses asthma medication via a tiny face mask. Kind of like a bong for kids.
The only way to stop Laszlo from screaming and squirming enough to put the mask on was to put on an episode of Sesame Street. Really loudly, to cover up the noise from the nebulizer motor. I know the neighbors must think we’re freaks for blasting kids’ shows at at two hour intervals throughout the night.
I am very grateful to have TV in my life. But I hate those little segments in between kids’ TV shows that show a mom gardening with her son. Or a dad making shadow puppets with his daughters. Because they make me feel like crap about the fact that I just turned on the TV, even if it’s just so that I can go make a healthy dinner for my kid. I know TV’s heart is in the right place. It wants kids and their parents to know that it’s important to spend time as a family, go outdoors, and do creative things. And that shadow puppetry is an important skill to have.
During those segments, even TV is admitting that it’s not good for kids. It gets manipulative and schizo on me, berating me, while seducing my child. It says, “Have you made puppets or started a garden with your kid today? If not, maybe you should turn me off, cause you’re maybe not such a good parent! Stay tuned for Dora the Explorer, kids!”
The other thing that annoys me are those segments that tell me to watch my kid’s TV show with them so that I know what he’s watching and so we can all talk about it later. Seriously? In case TV hasn’t noticed, kids and adults enjoy different shows. I’m not going to make my kid watch Mad Men, so that we can discuss the nuances of 1960s alcoholic parenting. And I’m not going to watch Elmo and Big Bird yap about how cute and dumb they are for an hour. If my kid starts rambling on later in the day about the adventures of Little Bear, I’m sure I’ll be able to catch on.
Like a complicated relationship with a loving parent, TV has always been there for me when I need it to sooth Laszlo during asthma attacks. Or when I need to make dinner during my many nights of single parenting. It’s distracted Laszlo so that I can rest when I’m sick. It’s a substitute for Joel when I need to poop. (Yes, that sounded weird.) Like a parent who will help you through the worst times, I will try to tolerate the guilt tripping and not roll my eyes at it when it gets preachy and just be thankful for it’s unconditional help.
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