As a family, we’re not hugely obsessed by the television; it’s certainly not on from morning until night. But it does have its place in the children’s routine. On a day-to-day basis, it goes on after they’ve finished their tea, at around 5.15pm, and they watch either CBeebies or CBBC until DH gets home at 6pm. It may not be much, but The Boy, in particular, craves that daily chunk of screen time. On occasion, when the Freesat box has been playing up, we’ve even had tears over the lack of TV, and had to resort to emergency DVD-on-laptop crisis avoidance.
Given The Boy’s ‘I must have my fix or the world will end’ attitude towards the box, our week in Wales could have been a disaster. My father has a TV, you see, but it’s never used, other than for watching the occasional DVD. And when we tried to switch it on for The Boy’s daily CBBC session, it wouldn’t work. At all. Death by under-use, or something.
So, our Welsh week was set to be a TV-free affair. But to my surprise, there was no meltdown, no wails of ‘But what can I dooooo?’ It would have been a different story if our own telly had bitten the dust, without a doubt, but in someone else’s house, The Boy didn’t seem that bothered.
Chances are, had the TV been functioning, The Boy would have been glued to it every time The Baby had her two-hour lunchtime nap, as well as during the usual post-teatime slot, just to keep him quiet and out of trouble. Instead, he had to find other ways to occupy himself. So what did he do? He read – a lot. Whole Rainbow Fairies books (don’t ask…) in one sitting. He filled in the activity pages in his Moshi Monsters comic, seriously impressing DH and me with his verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills. He played with the small collection of cars he’d brought with him. One lunchtime, he disappeared upstairs into the bedroom he was sleeping in. When I went up, after an hour of silence, to see what he was doing, he had got a desk tidy off the shelf and was playing an involved make-believe game where the characters were pens, pencils and a hole punch.
He didn’t seem to miss the TV at all. Nor did I miss the ‘Can’t I have *just one* more programme?’ argument that we have every single evening without fail.
The Baby has yet to become addicted to the television, but she too benefited from the lack of screen action, with her big brother happy to play with her and read to her instead.
Of course, it hasn’t lasted. We pit-stopped at my mum and (step) dad’s on the way home from Wales, and within an hour of getting there, an argument had broken out over the TV (The Boy wanted to watch his programmes; DH and my dad were watching football). And back home yesterday evening, normal CBeebies functioning was resumed.
I don’t mind too much. That 45 minutes or so of screen-time each evening gives me a chance to sit down and tune out while the children are glued to the box, after all. But those five days without TV were a breath of fresh air, and proved that the world doesn’t end without CBBC.
I wonder if The Boy would agree?