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Saturday, October 22, 2005 | There may be a lot of books, magazines, Web sites and busy bodies offering advice on raising kids but as far as I’m concerned, they never offer tips on the things that matter most – like watching TV.
It’s hard to believe but there are some parents who won’t let the little ones watch the tube, fearing it will affect their intelligence negatively and keep them from making it in the real world.
That’s balderdash (a word I only picked up by watching a game show with that name). In truth, a lot of important business relationships can be made or lost just by knowing important TV trivia. For instance, I once was hired as a phone psychic because I was able to turn lines from TV Guide summaries into valid psychic readings.
“Right now, your life is like that ‘Leave It To Beaver’ episode where the Beaver climbs on top of a billboard with a giant pot of steaming soup and falls in the bowl. You are like the Beav in that he is the only one willing to take the risk to see what’s in it. That’s a good quality but sometimes, people who take risks end up looking like fools on the surface.”
“Oh my gosh, you are so right.”
Now, not every child has it in them to score a cool job working in a boiler room near Fairmount Avenue for $12 an hour taking calls from women who want to know, “Do he love me?” but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them along by using the tube. Plus, watching television with your child is a good way to bond with them without feeling like you have to teach them some life lesson. Let the TV shows do that.
But there are some ground rules. TV should be age-appropriate. Although “Law & Order” reruns are great at putting newborns to sleep (especially “SVU” because Mariska Hargitay is such a warm Earth mother type), it should be off-limits when the child turns two. Unless, of course, there is nothing else that’s good on TV.
Sadly, my wife and I argue over which kid shows are best for our 2-year-old daughter, Alexandra. I feel that if it’s funny, it’s money. She disagrees and feels that the child won’t be old enough for genuinely good shows like “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy” until … actually, she doesn’t think Alex will ever be old enough.
Because my wife is the one who wears the pants in our family (I prefer shorts), her word is usually law and we usually hypnotize, er, entertain our child with “quality programming” and DVDs that are supposedly family-friendly.
Big Daddy used to get bored an awful lot until I realized there is a way to put an adult spin on even the most kid-oriented crap around. For instance, while watching Pooh’s “Heffalump Movie” for the umpteenth time, I realized the elephant-like creature known as the “Heffalump” makes noises that sound a lot like my bowels after a plate of chicken wings.
So I started referring to those obnoxious bodily sound effects by saying, “Ooh, there must be a Heffalump” and now Alex asks when she hears them, “Did you hear a Heffalump?” and giggles. A.A. Milne would be proud.
The “Heffalump Movie” is sickeningly sweet but there are a few moments like when Rabbit removes curlers from his ears that allow my adult mind to imagine the “sophisticated” Oscar Wilde-type shenanigans that undoubtedly go on in the 100-Acre Wood when the camera (nor Little Roo) isn’t around.
Some book snobs sneer at Disney movies and accuse them of sapping up their stories; I disagree. Thanks to Bambi, who was raised by an unwed mother, I’ll have an easy way of explaining to my daughter why she should wait until marriage to have sex (“You don’t want to die in a fire, do you?”) and the “Pink Elephants on Parade” in “Dumbo” will help me explain the healthy effects alcohol has on creativity.
There are other shows on TV that I know are good for her and it’s probably good just having her Dad there next to her, even if I silently cringe. For instance, “Arthur” on PBS has some good plots plus I can get hours of amusement trying to figure what kind of animal each character is supposed to be.
Also, PBS shows like “Teletubbies” can be mind-numbing for a sober parent (and mind-blowing for an intoxicated one) but I amuse myself while watching it by remembering a story that a friend told me about his trip to England. He claims he hooked up with the actress who plays “Po” and says she had very large breasts. Whenever the character jumps up and down, I like to imagine what it looks like with the costume off.
Finally, “Dora The Explorer” has an annoyingly screechy voice but the show’s format has helped me teach my daughter the importance of sarcasm and irony. Dora uses an interactive format where she addresses the screen and asks viewers at home questions like, “What do I need to find my way?” (Answer: A map).
Alex is still too young to understand Daddy (and Daddy may never understand himself) but I get the sense she’s beginning to enjoy my answers. For instance, whenever Dora asks, “What was your favorite part?” she laughs when I respond, “When I changed the channel” or “All the toy and cereal commercials.”
Hey, it’s a start.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who knows the correct answer when someone asks, “Who’s your Daddy?”