Last month, for the millionth morning in a row, my kids popped out of bed begging for cartoons. While I poured my coffee, they cashed in their 30 minute TV “tokens,” grabbed the remote and ran to the couch. By the time I had poured the creamer, their bodies were already limp and their eyes fully glazed over. Just as the bright lights lulled them into the intended hypnotic state… the main event began: the commercials. Bouncing blonde children appeared like angels on high, beaming in their low rise jeans, thrilled to deliver the good news…apparently my children only required the latest transformer and hot pink scooter in order to be happy and cool! Hallelujah! And without averting their eyes from the screen my angels began their chorus….“Mommy, I don’t have…” Mommy, I want…” “Mommy, Sarah has…” More coffee, please.
Later, Tish squealed when she caught a glimpse of the “All New Dora Shopping Cart” at the grocery store. On closer inspection, we discovered that the cart played a constant reel of cartoons and commercials. I allowed her to climb in because grocery trips are so painful when she’s alert, and the cart seemed a lovely solution. As I shopped, the silence from Tish started feeling stranger and stranger, like she wasn’t there with me at all, which I supposed was the point of the Dora cart. I only heard her voice once, when she said while pointing to the screen, “Mommy, can we buy these fruit snacks? PLEASE?” “No,” I said, “those are not healthy.” “Yes they are,” she insisted,” The TV SAID THEY ARE!” And I realized that while I’d been busy shopping, Kelloggs had been busy courting and retaining a business partner in my 3 year old daughter. Impressive, really.
After naptime we took Chase to his friend’s house and drove to Tish’s well check. Since there was nowhere else to look, we spent our time in the pediatrician’s waiting room allowing a Disney movie, Peter Pan, to creep its way good and deep into our psyche. In the first scene, Tinkerbell checked her bottom in a mirror and then shook with fairy frustration at its perceived hugeness. For the rest of our wait, we were treated to scene after scene in which Wendy, Tiger Lilly, and Tink tried to kill each other to become the last woman standing and win Peter’s affection. Sadly for the ladies, Peter was too busy having exciting adventures to notice their efforts. Tish was captivated, and only tore herself away once to say “Mommy, I really want to be a fairy when I grow up.” I sighed wearily in her direction but also felt mildly pleased that I had finally discovered where the “Rock of Love” producers got their inspiration. While I contemplated asking the Disney family to pay Tish’s future therapy bills, we were called back for our check up. Since I heroically resisted the urge to answer the doctor’s “how are we feeling today?” with “quite misogynistic, thanks!” we were declared relatively well, and we headed out to pick up Chase.
When we arrived at Chase’s buddy’s house, I expected to find them outside playing, since it was a beautiful day. But instead I was led down to the basement to find them in a semi-dark room, looking not at each other, but at a screen, talking not to each other, but to the screen…as they patiently waited their turn to hold the controller to the video game that they were playing. And I took a deep breath and wished hard and deep that they were really playing. And then I finally realized my problem: theywere really playing. This is what the new “playing” looks like. It looks like moving your thumbs while watching TV next to a buddy.
And as soon as we got home, Chase and Tish started begging for a cartoon, because they’d had a long day and they were tired. And I regretfully realized that our day had become a maddening version of “If you give a pig a pancake” renamed, “If you show a child a flat screen…” Suddenly my mommy volcano that had been bubbling all day exploded, and I started ranting about how the screens were rotting their brains and imaginations and souls. And Chase and Tish looked at me just like I would look at someone who brought a blender of margaritas in my house, set it on my counter, and then yelled at me for wanting to drink it.
After dinner that night I rushed through the kids’ bedtime routines because I was exhausted, depressed and just plain desperate to fast forward to my evening routine. Which consists of spending the only two quiet hours of my life inviting ladies with Stepford smiles to deliver to me the good news…that all I require to finally achieve happiness and coolness is the latest cold cream or handbag or diet pill or house or fabric softener. And I started considering my body, my home, and my closet and felt discontent with what I had, because I started to confuse what I have with who I am. Which of course, is the whole point. And so I marched to my minivan with all the other ants (we all do it the same way) and drove to the mall, to numb my restless lessness with some bulimic shopping. I binged on new jeans and throw pillows and Gymboree bows, and felt high for awhile, but then guilty. So I resolved to puke most of it back up by returning it the next morning. And ultimately I ended up back on the couch, not feeling much happier or cooler at all, really. Just tired. So I turned on the TV…
“If you give an exhausted mom a reality show…”