Charlotte and Tyrone sitting in a tree.
August 18, 2011

Halfway through last Thursday morning, I knew that I was losing the baby and I was too weak to stand so I called Donald at work and he came home.  While we were waiting for him, I found “The Backyardigans” on Netflix and Charlotte and I watched it on the computer.

Because we do not have television, this is the first time that Charlotte has ever watched any.  We’re pretty firm about this, about not letting her watch television, so I expected to feel a little guilty, but honestly if something happened between last Wednesday night and this morning the truth is that I just don’t give a shit.  With maybe the exception of the London riots.  I have been completely captivated by the London riots, but that is another story for another time.

Anyway, so we watched a television program together and OH MY GOODNESS, you guys, what is with that show?  It’s like toddler crack!  After twenty-four minutes of high-pitched voices singing about pirates, Charlotte LOST. HER. EVERLOVING. MIND.  I don’t even know how to describe it except to say that you’d have to see it to believe it.  She loved that show the way that a fly loves poop.  When it ended she acted like her life had just come to an end, complete with flailing arms and desperate cries for more.  She even asked me to fetch strawberries for her while she stayed on the couch and soaked in some Nick, Jr. love.  I mean, REALLY?  DO I LOOK LIKE A SLAVE TO YOU?

On second thought, don’t answer that.

Because I am nothing if not a hypocritical sucker, I went ahead and let her watch another twenty-four minutes.  She lasted about ten, and then either common sense or common boredom got a hold of her little body and off she went to put together a puzzle.

Over the days that followed, I forgot all about “The Backyardigans” but then last night I was resting on the couch and I pulled out the computer to check on the London riots (COMPLETELY CAPTIVATED) and while it booted up, Charlotte came over to snuggle with me.

Ordinarily we don’t have the computer out while Charlotte’s awake, so I thought she just wanted to snuggle because she didn’t want my attention diverted.  So I left the computer on the table and just snuggled with her and suddenly it became glaringly apparent that no, she had no interest in being the recipient of my undying love after all.  You guys!  She was like a heroin addict looking for her next fix!  She was only snuggling with me TO GET AT THE BACKYARDIGANS!!!  It only took thirty-something minutes for her to start preferring a moose named Tyrone to hanging out with me.

I sort of thought I had another decade before that one happened.

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  1. By on August 18, 2011

    If you think the backyardigans are toddler crack, you should see the impact Yo Gabba Gabba has!  That is one crazy show—but sweet lessons are incorporated throughout with fun songs that stick in your head for the rest of the day.

  2. By on August 18, 2011

    My son was addicted to the Wind in the Willows. He watched it everyday. (hey, he had wild ADD and I needed those 30 minutes for a shower and potty break)  After about 30 million views, he suddenly went cold turkey.

  3. By on August 18, 2011

    We bought a portable DVD player for a long plane trip and when we got home, I had to hide it because she didn’t want to do anything else.

    We aren’t completely anti-TV, so I have been recording Sesame Street on the DVR and I let her watch one per day. But yeah, she would watch it all day if I let her I think. It took a few days before she would accept that when Elmo is over, Elmo. Is. Over.

  4. By Sara on August 18, 2011

    Sarah - We have a pretty firm rule about TV watching too, but this week I’ve had the stomach flu (so disgusting!), and on Tuesday afternoon I popped in Beauty & the Beast for us both to watch. I thought I would feel so guilty, but instead I was just so relieved to not have to interact for a few moments! She lasted about 20-30 minutes, but now she keeps pointing to the TV (like she’s finally realizing what that big black box does!) and signing more more more….

    I hope you start to feel better soon

  5. By on August 18, 2011

    Oh I am convinced they put some kind of messaging in those shows that hook them!  We don’t have a TV either, but we let our son watch some netflix once in a while and its the same exact thing.

  6. By elizabeth Mackey on August 18, 2011

    My kids got to watch Sesame Street and that was it, we didn’t have extended cable, so no Nick Jr.. While they liked watching it, they would easily get bored and wander off to play either in their room or outside, leaving the TV on with no one in the room.
    I think it really depends on the kid, but mine coexisted with kid shows and playing creatively quite well. My friend keeps her kids away from TV, and when we go anywhere where there is a TV, they are hypnotized! You can’t pull them away from it. You have to wonder sometimes, that like anything, in small doses it isn’t all bad.
    Now, video games are another thing. Those have NEVER been in our house. Kids sit for hours with those and use 0 creativity, so they were banned from our house.
    My girls played 85% outside, and the rest was mixed with creative play in their room or a tiny bit of Sesame Street.

    On another note, I was scared to death with those riots, as they started only two miles from where my daughter and her husband just moved to!! I was on the lap top watching BBC every chance I could get. Thankfully they are fine.

  7. By Camille on August 18, 2011

    I know what you mean. I never let my daughter watch tv until she was about 2 years old, then I started trying out some Nick Jr. She’s not too interested in most of the shows but she’s obsessed with Dora. Also, the movie Ponyo, for some reason. She talks about the baby in Ponyo who nurses his mommy like every single day… She actually has a fear of the Backyardigans for some odd reason! She starts crying during the beginning song every time and I turn off the tv hahha.

  8. By Cambria on August 18, 2011

    Caillou is our current “crack”. When Hadley was little, it was Yo Gabba Gabba. At least Caillous is PBS.

  9. By on August 18, 2011

    I had a strict no TV rule too and although we have a TV, we have no cable. She was always a car ride hater and it got progressively worse as she grew older. We had a long road trip ahead of us when she was about 20 months old and I gave in and bought a portable DVD player and some Sesame Street DVDs. Needless to say she was hooked. She’s 27 months old now and we let her watch an episode (or two) of yo gabba gabba or kipper on netflix on weekends and curious george in the morning on PBS. The 30 minutes in the morning help my husband get her ready for daycare without a fuss.

  10. By on August 18, 2011

    I was going to mention Yo Gabba Gabba, but someone beat me too it. Take a moment to watch an episode yourself. My son prefers The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That. And I learned how bees make honey :)

  11. By Kirsten on August 18, 2011

    When my son was a baby, my husband and I swore we would never turn on the television for him…..EVER.  I don’t know what happened along the way, but now I’m ashamed to admit that at 2.5 years old, Aaryan watches a little bit of TV nearly daily.  He only watches ‘child-appropriate’ and ‘educational’ shows, but I know there are much better ways he could be spending that time.  Thanks for reminding me that we really need to make an effort to remove the ‘boob-tube’ from my kiddo’s days!  :-)

  12. By on August 18, 2011

    Ahhh, the allure of the Backyardigans.  That is the #1 FAVORITE OF ALL TIME in our house!!  It is the one sure-fire way of taming the beasts in moments of pure savagery here.  It’s actually one cartoon that doesn’t annoy the heck out of me to.  :)

  13. By on August 18, 2011

    HAHA - I am not a TV person. I’ll be home all day and it just doesn’t cross my mind as ‘something to do’. My husband loves baseball and he likes his dose of the daily show - so he’ll turn it on, but usually not until later. We’re also movie people, so at night if there’s nothing really going on, we’ll watch a movie. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what channel plays cartoons though… and I have no idea what the backyardigans even are! So kudos to you for that.

    Every now and then though, on a rainy day - a sick day - a ‘blah’ day I’ll find an animated movie for Jude. I’m sure in the two years of his life it’s happened less than ten times - but without fail, each time he’s literally glued to the TV. Other people I know who let their kids watch TV all day long say that movies rarely keep them entertained from start to finish - so maybe there’s something to it. If you treat it as a ‘special occasion’ it will be taken as such.

  14. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2011

    Alicia K - LOL, I had never heard of The Backyardigans before either.  We don’t have tv at all, so I went to the Netflix category for animated children’s stuff.  I wanted a show instead of a movie because of its short time table and I hadn’t heard of any of the ones listed so I just went with the first one on the list and presto, Backyardigans.

    Elizabeth - We’re not hardcore anti-tv…we just don’t want her watching television at this age.  I grew up without tv and my husband grew up with tons of tv, but obviously we somehow managed to both turn out half-decent.  The biggest reason that we aren’t keen on Charlotte watching television at this age is that it means she isn’t out playing.  We both believe that the habits she forms today and that we reinforce throughout her childhood are the habits that will last throughout her life.  Our big concern has been that if we accustom her to television now, she’ll never know a life without it.  And if she never knows a life without it, how can we expect her to make educated choices about how she wants to spend her time?

    I think that in a few years, we’ll probably introduce small doses of television.  Probably not every day, maybe not even every week, simply because it isn’t a constant part of our family dynamic, but I’d be surprised if television never factored into her childhood.  Right now, she also isn’t interested in television sets that are turned on in other peoples’ homes.  To be fair, though, most of our friends and family try very hard to respect that we’re not super keen on tv, so that makes it much easier for us that it might be for others to avoid it.  We’ll see how that changes as she gets older and probably make choices about television exposure accordingly.

  15. By Alicia S. on August 18, 2011

    This wasn’t something I went into parenthood caring a lot about, because - like you - I thought it wouldn’t become a frightening addiction until he was at least a LITTLE bit older, but when Matthew turned 2, we had to put major restrictions on it. Around that time I started reading blogs like yours that turned me onto the crazy idea of just not letting them watch the damn thing at all. And I’ll be the first to admit, it sounded a little extreme to me, but by just giving it a shot—I became a total convert. TOTAL. I swear I can see his brain oozing out of his ears when he joins his dad for an occasional episode of River Monsters.

    Sometimes I’ll look up episodes of Sid The Science Kid or Umi Zoomi (a math show) that correspond to one of our pre-school lessons that week. It can be really fun to interact with the characters together, but shutting it off is like it would be with any other cartoon. Sometimes anticipating the headache that follows turning it off at the end of the episode is enough to keep me from turning on even something I’d really enjoy us watching together.

    That being said, I had an experience like yours with the Movie Tangled. It’s normally movies we steer clear of, more than television. But I popped Tangled on two nights ago while I folded laundry on a rainy day and I think I was as glued to it as the kids were. We talked all night about all of our favorite parts, and it ended up being a really fun experience.

  16. By kbreints on August 18, 2011

    Serious? I love the backyardigans.

  17. By Tracy Roberts on August 18, 2011

    Because any screen time is crack to young minds.  It puts children in their reptilian brain and achieving that feeling again is extremely addicting.
    It isn’t the show Sarah, its the medium.  I personally think an hour of free time isn’t worth all the begging, crying, pleading, and so many other things that come after that media time.  i think it makes for a much more frustrated parent and a child who does not know how to entertain herself in the long run without electronic stimulation.
    It is a very slippery slope.

  18. By Georgia Burman on August 18, 2011

    I’ve been a lurker for ages, but never commented :)
    This post made me laugh because we are going through a similar (though different) thing these days. Up until last month, we too have been firm with the no TV rule. Then our little one got sick a month ago and I have been, literally, begging her to learn how to watch TV. I have put her in front of every show possible, in the hopes that something will catch her eye. So far, nothing - She won’t even watch for a few minutes! I never thought I would be in a position where I was desperately trying to teach my toddler to watch TV! I feel like I am tying the torniquet lovingly around her arm and handing her the syringe. “Here Sweet Pea - I promise you’ll like it!“
    Here we are though, and she needs something to occupy her when she is getting procedures done/feeling gross/in the hospital/getting treatments and you find you do what you have to do to get by. Wish us luck on our learn-to-watch-tv adventures!
    I always like stopping by your blog :) Your candid sharing of your life has been one of the inspirations for my own writing. I was sad to hear of your loss, but you seem to be handling it with strength and perspective. Thanks for writing.

  19. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2011

    Tracy - I’ve read some research about the physical affects of screen time, but this just goes to show that reading something and seeing it in practice are vastly different.  What’s weird is that I’m not really a big fan of tv.  I get fidgety and it irritates me.  I always assumed this was because I was raised without it and when I turned on Netflix I remember having this brief flicker of fear that it wouldn’t work and that she’d move and I’d be too sick to move, but Charlotte was a completey different story.  I went straight into fidgety irritated mode and she went straight into zombie mode.  I’ve been wondering ever since what it is that causes some people raised without tv to react to it in one way while other people react to it in another way - and is it brain maturity?  Or is it personality?  Or is it show-dependent?  Or mood-dependent?

    I agree with you that screen time can be a slippery slope, but I think my perspective is more along the lines that all compromises have negative potential.  That said, I don’t think that the consequences of screen time outweigh my need at that moment to have my daughter still.  I made the television compromise, for example, because I was acutely aware of the fact that I was losing blood too quickly to interact with her even conversationally without passing out.  I don’t like the idea of using the television to gain an hour of free-time or down-time and I don’t really see that ever happening in my home.  But I absolutely do not think that allowing Charlotte to watch under forty minutes of cartoons so that I could preserve my energy when I was in the midst of a physical and emotional crisis brings us anywhere near that slippery slope or will have any sort of affect on her ability to entertain herself.

    That said, I highly suspect that when Charlotte is older we will introduce her to television in small doses.  Because I grew up without tv, I know that you can get by without social references and be just fine.  But I also know that just seeing The Wizard of Oz one time cleared up alot of puzzling references for me and made it easier for me to make jokes other people understood.  I want to give Charlotte the tools to live a life free of television if she so chooses, but I also want to give her the tools to navigate the mainstream world.

  20. By Tracy Roberts on August 18, 2011

    Sarah, just to clarify… I never said your need for her to be a zombie was not valid so no need to clarify, however….
    I disagreed with you that her love was the show as opposed to being consumed by an addictive medium.

    And you contradicted yourself in your last paragraph.  You are right that growing up without media references will be just fine AND I also know that means that she will have the tools to navigate the mainstream world just fine.  i would argue that she will be better equipped not watching TV.

  21. By Sarah Christensen on August 18, 2011

    Ooooooh, okay, I see what you mean about medium v. content.

    I guess the question about navigating the mainstream comes down to my perspective as a child who didn’t watch television.  Television is more to our culture than just programs.  There are news broadcasts, historic moments everyone shares, universally understood events, etc.  How can I expect Charlotte to be analytical about televised news, for example, without teaching her to see its shortcomings.  I’ll teach her how to read the newspaper, how to glean it for information, how to think critically while reading.  Why wouldn’t I do the same for televised news?  Why send her into the world without an understanding of televised news and the tools to decipher it?  And how would any American feel if they were the only person in the nation not to have seen the 9/11 footage?  What about seeing a presidential speech such as the state of the union?  Or watching a televised broadcast of congress to see how it functions?

    I think that there are some aspects of television wherein the benefits outweigh the consequences with older children.

  22. By Alicia S. on August 19, 2011

    Georgia, I’m so sorry to hear about your little girl. Our hospital experience changed the way I think about t.v. too, but in a different way—and I want to make sure you know I don’t think this applies to your situation at all. I will definitely be wishing you luck with your T.V. endeavor. J

    We were in the hospital (a children’s hospital) for 3 weeks with Scarlett, and you know what drove me nuts? That every one of the 5 parents we shared a room with over the course of our stay—as soon as they were admitted, shoved the t.v. in their child’s face and then busied themselves either on face book or on their Iphone. I’m not joking, not a single parent I shared a room with interacted with their child from the day they came to the day they left. Whenever family would call to check in on them, they’d spend the whole conversation griping about how god-awful boring it was to be there.

    Being in the hospital for us was in part a blessing because it was 3 weeks I got to spend cooped up in a room with nothing better to do than love on my little girl, who really needed the extra love at the time. I didn’t have to cook, I didn’t have to mop floors, I didn’t have to pre-school her brother—I had endless amounts of time to give my daughter who was ill every bit of my attention.

    And the hospital had all of these incredible recourses, too! There were endless amounts of picture books and toys (and games and craft-materials for older children) that you could not only take advantage of in the playrooms, but that you could take up to your room and keep for as long as you wanted, whenever you wanted. I really credit myself on not being a judgmental person, but seeing how many parents blatantly abused screen time with their toddler - at a time like THAT, no less, what is obviously a golden opportunity to give your child a little extra TLC - made me cringe.

    Sarah, I love your common sense ability to see even something like T.V. with all of it’s stigma as a tool for education. I grew up in a time when nobody really put restrictions on t.v. so I could watch whatever I wanted - but I only ever saw my mom watch political programs and important news broadcast, and State of the Union addresses were like (OMG, START THE POPCORN!) events in our house. My mom would always encourage us to get involved, too, and try to explain what was going on so that we could understand. Seeing t.v. from both sides of the spectrum at such a young age is what makes me think a lot like you on this one.

  23. By Georgia on August 19, 2011

    Alicia: No worries about the comment :) I’m glad that you guys were able to have such a positive hospital experience (as positive as your child being in the hospital can be) And I totally agree that the TV situation in the hospital is pretty crazy - every room we passed by had their TV on at top volume. For me, it was really the volume that got to me - I wanted to scream, “Turn it down!!!“

    I think that, with Elsa, her age and temperment are what make me long for some TV watching - especially in the hospital. She is 18 months and, before she got sick, our primary activities were activities where she could run, jump, and act like a maniac! She was such an active little girl and her attention-span is that of a flea. While we were in the hospital, we had to switch activities every 5 minutes because she would get bored and she wasn’t allowed to do what she really wanted to do which was: get out of there running! Our hospital is a children’s hospital so they are AMAZING about accommodating families and the play rooms are wonderful. But there is only so much that an 18 month old with an IV pole can really participate in - most of the activities are geared towards older children.  There were days where she nursed, literally, every 20 minutes round-the-clock for comfort because nothing else appealed to her. Part of me longed for the TV to babysit her - if only for a few minutes here and there.

    Our recent circumstances have just made me laugh at the irony of me wanting her to watch TV. I am sort of an anti-TV zealot (becasue I, myself, have a serious TV addiction!) and now, my greatest dream is that my child zone out for 30 minutes so I (and my nipples!) can have a break. Alas, she is having none of it anyway, so let the exhaustion continue!

    Just stopped by your blog: wonderful writing and what an incredible scary time you have had with your sweet Scarlett. Glad that it looks like you guys are doing so well and she is thriving!

    Looks like we got off on a hospital tangent here!

  24. By Alicia S. on August 19, 2011

    LOL, the volume!! I had one hospital roommate who listened to Missy Elliott videos literally All. Night. Long. No joke. I thought that was awful until I shared a room with someone who watched SpongeBob until 4 a.m. with the volume all the way up. And she was there with an infant!

  25. By Christy / Thrifty Vintage Kitten on August 19, 2011

    HAHA! I also try to keep the TV viewing off limits for my 2-year-old, but every once in a while I’ll let her watch Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (I like that they ask the viewers to get up and dance and ask them questions). My daughter LOVES it. She’s like a zombie when she watches.

  26. By Rachael on August 19, 2011

    I agree with an earlier poster. Yo Gabba Gabba caused my niece to go nuts when she heard JUST the theme song. I am pretty sure she LOST HER MIND. I don’t mind the show, it teaches good lessons, like eating all the food on your plate and saying sorry and sharing and such. I don’t care for the songs to be stuck in MY head though. :P

  27. By Lindsay on August 19, 2011

    We always had a TV growing up, but I never had any interest in watching it…ever. The only memories of TV I have as a child were cuddling with my dad on the couch and watching old episodes of “The Waltons” and “Happy Days,“ though I do remember staying with my grandma and being allowed to watch “The Nanny” and “Roseanne.“ Those two shows became my crack! As a teenager, I was addicted to “Party Of Five” (am I dating myself? Yikes!) but that remained the only show I ever actually watched…until I got pregnant, in October of 2010. Being on bedrest and going through so many books until my eyes got tired, I turned to TV. And now I know way more about any reality television show than I care to admit…ugh, it’s embarrassing! Other than to play music on the music channels, our TV is never on. I like it that way. I don’t understand HOW some people are so into television. it’s nice when you’re sick or laid up in bed but…other than that? Ugh, it makes me feel stir crazy.

    I plan on having the same “no TV” rule for my son, too, when he’s old enough to inquire about TV. I have a feeling he won’t feel like he’s missing too much!

  28. By cheapbabystoresonline on August 20, 2011

    yse, I was going to mention

  29. By on August 20, 2011

    Emily’s show is ‘Franklin’

  30. By Nilu on August 21, 2011

    Haha…I think this will probably happen to me too. I myself was raised without television and I am planning on keeping the TV away from my child as long as possible as well.
    I am overflowing with noble plans of no TV, no plastic toys and only organic foods only. But the feeling is creeping up on me that as soon as my son is born and I am actually drowning in poopy diapers I will need my own Nilu-time so badly, that I might actually feel good about myself even though my child is drinking soda and watching TV…

    But just for the record: I am planning on having no such things anywhere in our house :)

  31. By Sarah Christensen on August 21, 2011

    Nilu - You can do it =)


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