I was once one of those holier-than-thou women who – in spite of having no children – had very specific ideas on how to raise them. I recounted many of these myths in So Much for My Kid Commandments.
The ideal that has crashed to the ground the hardest, however, is no TV in the house. My first problem with adhering to this principal was marrying a TV watcher: from NFL games to Apocalypse Now for the twentieth time, my husband’s ability to watch TV is legendary. My second problem is context: I have twins, work full time, and try to write. If I can’t plop my kids in front of Dora the Explorer, how am I supposed to find time to tap on my laptop?
So, I’m a convert. No sense raising children who’ll resent me because they have no TV. Anyway, they need an education in popular culture or they’ll miss the allusions. In twenty years, I’d like them to be able to debate whether or not Austin of The Backyardigans was a bastard child.
Yesterday, I had my own pop culture nostalgia after my cousin sent me a clip of the “Yip Yip Martians and the Phone” in honour of Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary. If you don’t know the refrain to this, blame your parents.
Does it get better than that? Nope nope nope nope nope.
Instead of seeing TV as the anti-Christ, I let my kids watch cartoons and occasionally educate them about the evils of advertising. Yeah, the tail is wagging the dog, but whatever. This pseudo-education is easy enough since my kids now love Teletoon Retro, which has commercials across the audience spectrum. What other station gives you Barbie ads followed by commercials for First Response Early Pregnancy Tests?
Even though my son can’t remember to wipe his own butt, he can remember every line from commercials. His favourite is the Slap Chop Man.
Yup, five-year-old William can be heard spouting out lines like “You love salad, you hate making it” and “Fettuccine, Linguine, Martini, Bikini.” The one that’s bound to get him hauled to the principal’s office is “You’re going to love my nuts.”
And so begins the education. As a teacher, I should have this pedagogy thing down. But I don’t. Still, I manage to imprint the refrain “Do we need that?” into my kids’ growing brains. When the Slap Chop commercial plays for the umpteenth time that hour, I say, “Do we need that?”
William, not missing a beat, yells, “No, we don’t need that! We have knives!” That’s my boy.
Later, my refrain continues. After the Baby Princess Doll commercial, I ask, “Do we need that?” Vivian says no like she’s a born-again Naomi Klein.
It’s going well, but like most teachers, I don’t know when to shut up. So I prosthelytize. “You’re right. We can’t buy everything. If we bought everything, we’d have no money, no house.”
Vivian, eyes still on the TV, says, “Save money, live better.”
“Where’d you hear that?” I ask.
“TV,” she answers. Sure enough, it’s Walmart’s freaking motto.