23 Apr 2014


"Just because he's missed one bedtime story, does not mean he's going to be illiterate."
Words of wisdom from Mr W this evening to assuage my guilt (shut me up) about the fact that I had allowed Dexter to watch Thomas 'the mother-chuffing Tank Engine' on my iPad in bed. As the boy's eyes goggled tiredly in his head, emulating his rail-riding heroes, he refused his nightly story - even from his beloved daddy.
Whilst I am keen that this is not a pattern we fall into on a regular basis, it did get me thinking about the often controversial issue of children and screen time - specifically television.
I LOVE television and I have a very low threshold of intellect and taste when it comes to my viewing pleasure. Soaps, 'talent' shows, reality and countdown programmes are up there with my top televisual choices. To be honest, shameful as it is to admit, I struggle with anything that contains, you know, an actual story - much to the bemusement and frustration of my husband. The only programmes we have truly 'watched' together (i.e. I have put down my phone/iPad to concentrate) are the BBC's 'Sherlock' and the Anglo-French remake of 'The Bridge' - 'The Tunnel'. To me, television is entirely a matter of personal taste: my personal taste is distinctly trashy.
My love affair with the idiot's lantern began at an early age. Every Saturday, I would be in my pyjamas until at least twelve, glued to 'Going Live', 'Number 73' or whatever programme du jour was filtering into our living room. As a very young child, I distinctly remember that Emily was most certainly not alone in her love of Bagpuss. However, I always was (and still am) a voracious reader; I'm an English teacher for goodness sake! I also like to think that my social skills have not suffered as a result of my choice to engage in what must be the nation's favourite pastime. I LOVE to chat and am certainly not shy or withdrawn.
Dexter has a communication and language delay. A very late talker, whilst he is making oodles of progress, he is still 'behind' with his social skills and chatting. I constantly doubt myself as a parent and I've struggled with the slightly different journey we've had with our boy. Saying that, I've never had an issue with him watching television. He loves cBeebies, most of which in my humble opinion, has educational value. And yes, we are going through a MASSIVE 'Thomas the Tank Engine' phase at the moment which includes the programmes, the films, the books and the model trains themselves. He is obsessed.
On our day off today, Dexter and I spent two hours at soft play, visited the toy shop where he was treated to a model Henry, which then allowed me to bribe him to sit in the shopping trolley clutching his latest acquisition whilst we had a tantrum-free time in Waitrose doing the weekly shop.
On returning home, the boy proudly declared that he loved Henry and was very keen to get into his playroom to introduce the small green engine to Thomas and Gordon. He then happily spent the afternoon playing with his trains; I caught up on the washing (I may have had a brief disco nap on the sofa). Listening in on and joining in with his train play, it was obvious that Dexter's language and imaginative play have come on in leaps and bounds. It was television that introduced him to Thomas.
After a quiet afternoon, a tea that included several types of fruit and a packet of crisps, a bathed and chilled-out boy sat in bed watching the Thomas movie while I caught up on some work emails and some lesson planning. That's my reality; that's our reality. And to me, that's the essence of my train of thought (pardon the pun). Life is all about balance and moderation. Yes, my boy watches telly, but he also goes to the park, does jigsaws, plays with trains and averages three bedtime stories a night. Mr W is right: no books this evening does not constitute a parenting fail.
Perhaps I'm afraid of being judged for my attitude to little ones and screens. If parents and carers choose to have a different view, that isn't for me to judge either.
After  posting this, having listened to the radio for an hour whilst writing, I'll be turning this screen off and heading for a hot bath. There's nothing on television that interests me this evening and I've got a great novel on the go that I'm desperate to finish...
This post seems to offer a rather tenuous reason to wheel out this picture of the one and only time I have actually appeared ON the television!


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