Yabba, dabba Do … NOT!


You look like you need a holiday. Or maybe you’ve just returned from one. It’s hard to tell the difference between a person in need of rest and a person who’s just spent a week in a minivan with two kids and a Tickle Me Elmo.

I have heard of people who know how to relax on their days off. They go to the beach with a large book and refuse to move. I respect this approach to holidaying. However, it isn’t the way I was raised. When my family went on holiday, we moved with the speed and purpose of an army reconnaissance team. We once viewed all the sights from Washington, DC, to Boston in one week. “Hurry,” my dad would say. “Run in there and see the Liberty Bell, then get back out. Don’t fool around and read the placards like you did at the Smithsonian. It’s a big bell with a crack in it. That’s all you need to know. I’ll leave the engine running.”

The engine was always running. When we hit New York City, we flew through town like a Bill Clinton book tour. My brother sneezed and he missed the Empire State Building completely.

Our parents wanted us to see as much of the world as possible—but they didn’t want us to see what was on television. This was disappointing to a couple of kids who would much rather view an episode of The Flintstones than the Plymouth Rock. And there was another problem. Our lack of advertising exposure left us confused about which breakfast cereals we should crave. Once we actually ate homemade muesli without complaining.

I think my parents were afraid we would see something on television that would leave us warped. Maybe it could happen. But it’s hard to believe that people have been set on a life of crime by watching Gilligan’s Island. Unless, maybe, it was a series of crimes involving coconuts.

It comes down to the saying “Monkey see, monkey do.” That’s why parents get concerned about TV in general and The Osbournes in particular. My message of comfort to them is this: Think about how many times your children have seen you washing the dishes. Now, have you ever surprised them in the kitchen imitating this particular behaviour? Exactly.

Of course, that’s my argument when I’m talking about your kids. When it comes to our kid, my wife and I have limited his video experience to a single Baby Mozart tape. We figure it’s safe, because it is excruciatingly boring.* It’s the entertainment equivalent of being stuck in a lift. The plot centres on the numbers one to nine and footage of the producer’s dog. It is so dull that sometimes I’m distracted from the television screen by the sensation of my fingernails growing.

The problem of what to watch is a modern one. Go back 100 years, and you wouldn’t have much to look at besides the back of a mule team. You wouldn’t agonise over whether to watch a show where people eat spiders or a show where the stars chat it up around the autopsy table.

I suppose that being careful about what you watch is similar to being careful about what you eat. You’re better off doing it, even though it’s hard to prove that it has saved your life. So I’ll suggest a wholesome, balanced diet for the eyes. Go on a holiday and see Uluru at sunset, the Louvre and the Remarkables. And maybe, every once in a while, you can watch The Flintstones for dessert.

Reprinted, with permission, from Women of Spirit.
*More recently I had to buy radishes for our child because he had seen Rabbit eat them in a Winnie the Pooh movie. This is a case where video definitely affected behaviour—but only until he took his first bite.
image Subscribe to our eNewsletter