With all the Facebook cartoon profile pics reminding us how awesome cartoons were growing up, I’ve also been reminded how great they are for parents.
As a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were the “dessert” activity of our week. My sister and I would get up long before my parents and eagerly feast our eyes on an entire morning’s worth of junk food for our brains: Jem, Thundercats, Strawberry Shortcake, Herself the Elf.
My whole life, I thought this meant that we woke up freakishly early on Saturdays because it was the one day we were allowed to watch TV in our jammies instead of getting dressed and eating breakfast.
Now I know better. It’s not that we got up freakishly early. It’s that my parents slept late.
When we first had kids, my husband and I were great about keeping electronic media out of our lives. No TV, very limited computer use for my stepson (who was then 9), no cell phones or Game Boys or other electronic toys. Anything with batteries in that got given to our babies quietly disappeared into the Goodwill bin.
We kept this up for almost five years. Every morning, one of us – usually Daddy – would get up with the kids at the crack of dawn, make breakfast and start the day on their schedule.
As the endless slog of sleep deprivation wore on, we started to tussle over who would get to sleep on on Saturday morning. We agreed to take turns. That never worked because, I’ll confess, I am just not a morning person. No matter how good my intentions are at bedtime, half-awake Zombie Me refuses to get out of bed. Not one of my finest qualities, but real nonetheless.
One morning, as my husband and I lay there in our sleepy Saturday morning fugue state trying to muster the energy to argue over who was getting up to greet the day, I remembered something.
“Cartoons…” I muttered.
“What?” he said.
“Saturday morning cartoons. We used to watch cartoons while mom and dad slept.”
We exchanged a sleepy, conspiratorial look. TV was a rare treat. An orgy of unsupervised cartoon watching was unthinkable. Surely the kids would burn our house down if we left them alone for an hour with only Barbie’s Fairytopia pals to watch over them? Either that or their future academic careers and personal happiness would be forever compromised, right? RIGHT?
Maybe. But it was worth it.
We went downstairs. We put a DVD full of kids’ programming on the TV. A nice long one (not a cartoon, actually. Fraggle Rock). We put a box of cereal, some cut up bananas and two sippy cups full of milk on the coffee table. We went back to bed.
We have done this every Saturday morning since. Our house is still standing. Our kids are still healthy and happy. I don’t think their chances at either Harvard or happiness have dimmed. Our marriage is better because we both get more sleep. Once in awhile, we even have morning sex. I thought I’d given that up forever along with my skinny jeans from college.
I know I was just extolling the virtues of spending time apart from your spouse, but some things are really great to do together. Sleeping in on Saturday morning while the kids rot their brains in a fine American tradition is definitely on my list.