Life after TV

We have been without a TV for a year and a half now. This state of affairs came about for a number of reasons, the most immediate being the fact that one evening the set ceased to function properly. The screen revealed a narrow one-inch band of the normal picture, giving us a unique view of Walter Cronkite's Adam's apple.

This gave my wife and me a chance to reflect on the value of television. We realized that this electronic box had kept us immobile while we watched an endless amount of commercials. We would be caught watching programs that titillated our interest but at the conclusion left us mentally deflated.

While both of us are teachers, we also noticed that our two preschoolers were dependent on the television. They would sit "at its feet," so to speak, as if to worship it early in the morning, with a similar ritual before bed.

"Let's not fix it!" my wife suggested.And so the best began. Could a modern American family survive without a television? We soon had to make some adjustments, which were difficult at times but interesting and revealing in terms of family compatibility.

The first noticeable change was the way the children turned to us for entertainment. We would constantly read, play games or just talk. At this point I must have pleaded with my wife at least 20 times to buy a new set. The "Blue Babysitter" was hard to do without.

After several months of this role as child facilitator, a transformation started to take place. Perhaps some call it "self-actualization" or "independent motivation" or "inner-directed socialization," but it was simply innate imagination. A wonder to behold!

The two children began to play with each other more as well as by themselves. Their creativity seemed to have no limit. Two chairs and a sheet became the cabin of a ship. A chair with an ironing board across was an airplane, or a car ramp. Thirty different books and magazines placed end to end on the floor took shape as a highway going through three different rooms. Their creations often used similar materials but had a variety of purposes.

It took a bit of getting used to such odd arrangements for chairs, pillows, and books, but my wife and I would sit back and observe this innovation with delight. We began to enjoy our own newly discovered time for reading, hobbies, or talking more to one another.

Granted we miss the televised news, PBs plays, and sporting events, but these are minor inconveniences when compared to the nontelevised benefits.Most noticeably these are some of the joys of life without TV:

* A quieter home. The noise pollution given off from a TV has vanished.

* A greater interest in creative play by the children.

* A renewed interest in reading and being read to. Regular trips to the library are a habit now.

* More meaningful conversation and communication. Keeping each member of the family informed on what the others are doing in school, at work, or with friends.

* A general feeling of a slower paced life, one with more time for self-directed activity.

Certainly these elements can exist in a family with television, but the chance of letting the set control time and entertainment seems to be much greater.

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