At the same time we feel pretty strongly about reinforcing our values. We want Ezra to respect the earth and all of its plants and animals (including humans). We want to limit the amount of influence marketing and consumerism have on his wants and desires in life. So, we do have lots of no's. No meat. No fast food. No excess amount of toys. No toys with commercial characters. No television? Okay, the last one we are still working on.
Television was something Amanda and I have always agreed should not be a part of an infant’s life, and only a small part of an older child’s, teen’s, and adult’s life. Therefore, we had decided that Ezra would not watch any television before the age of two. We believe that encouraging children in active play rather than being passively entertained is good for their attention span, physical and mental development, creativity, and self esteem. We still believe this is best, but have already surrendered to feasibility.
Not too long ago, we use to be one of those annoying couples that would stop conversations about the winner of American Idol with, “we don’t have a television.” This was before Amanda became pregnant. Midway through her pregnancy two things happened. First, Amanda was too exhausted by the end of the workday to do much more than watch a movie. Second, we discovered Hulu. Lost was our entry drug. We then tried and liked 30 Rock and Arrested Development. Soon we were also addicted to Glee, Parks and Recreation, and the webseries The Guild.
We still do not encourage Ezra to watch television, but since he is always with us, if we watch television so does he. We do not select films or programs made to appeal to infants or even children. In fact, we do not play anything specifically for him, but he will happily watch anything. He does not discriminate, for example last weekend he watched the entire movie Twilight. I fell asleep bored three-quarters of the way through. Amanda, Ezra and I had lunch in a restaurant with a television. Ezra ignored us and watched the Duke v. Virginia basketball game. He equally enjoys science fiction films, Spanish Tele’novellas, football games, and bridal parties dancing to Beyonce’s Single Ladies on YouTube. This photograph shows Ezra captivated by the appropriately named Spellbound, an “engaging” documentary about the 1999 spelling bee.
Ezra watching TV at 4 months. Note the glazed eyes and drool on his chin.
Like a "very special episode" of an 80s sitcom, this minor television addiction has taught us a few important things. The first being a simple and obvious lesson: if you want your child to live a certain lifestyle you must be willing to be a role model and exhibit the behaviors you want them to emulate. The second, Ezra is team Jacob.
I wrote the original draft for this essay a few months ago. Since then Ezra has become slightly less interested in TV (the same for Amanda and me). As he has become more mobile he has many, many more things he would rather do, and he is much more selective of what earns his attention. He continues to enjoy the Glee musical numbers, but chooses to ignore the scenes with talking. I read several reviews of the second half of the show’s first season in which the television critic felt the same way. We are happy he enjoys music and fine with him watching a limited amount of appropriate television, but we worry because marketers are extremely good at reaching their target audience when that audience is children. Ezra immediately stops whatever he is doing to watch McDonald’s commercials and trailers for animated movies like Shrek III.