In general I’m a pretty honest person. I tend to follow the advice of Mark Twain who said, “If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.” For me that’s just the easiest thing to do. I have a million things floating around in my head, so to try to remember who I told what to would be way too complicated. But when I took my son for his two year check up recently I lied to his doctor, big time.
The appointment was routine. We talked about his diet, his progress with talking, his sleep schedule, etc. I was proud to tell the doc that my son has never had fast food, he prefers fruit over candy (and pretty much anything else), that he mostly sleeps like a champ and I let Mario’s conversation with him speak for itself. He’s a chatterbox, like me. When the doctor looked in his ears, Mario told him his uncle had found money there. All three of us laughed and I was one proud mamma. Then at the end, the doctor asked me about “screen time.” He wanted to know how much time Mario spends watching TV or on a computer. And that’s when it happened. I lied.
Now, I know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children younger than two years old and a 60 minute limit for toddlers. And in general, I go by their guidelines for most things. But, not for screen time. So I lied. I told the doctor that Mario rarely watches TV and when he does it’s only for about 15 minutes at a time. I told him that I don’t let him use our iPad or our computer. In reality, he watches TV every day. And, he got a Kindle Fire for his birthday.
The truth is I really did limit his screen time. I wasn’t one to let him entertain himself with a tablet or my phone. I was strict about that right up until August 19th. That’s when my second son was born. After that all bets were off. I came home from the hospital to a 20 month old who was used to being the center of my universe. To that point we spent all day, every day together coloring, reading, going for walks, playing with his animals and building with blocks. If he was awake, we were always doing something together. Then along came baby Lorenzo and his world blew up. I remember walking up to our front door with the new baby. I had pictured the scene a hundred times in my head before. I expected I would come in with the baby and Mario would come running with a big hug and a kiss for both of us and we’d be an instantly happy family of four. Ya, not so much. He did come running. Only he was screaming, “Noooooooo baby!!” So he needed some time to adjust to say the least.
When he saw me nursing the baby he would freak. He would come over and physically try to unlatch him. Someone told me a good idea would be to include him in the day-to-day care of the baby. So, I’d ask him if he wanted to help me change the baby’s diaper. No. Did he want to help me give him a bath? No. And when he saw that I was trying to get him to fall asleep, that’s when all hell would break loose. “Put him down! Go away baby!” Oy. That’s when I loosened up on my screen time limits. A lot. Sometimes letting him watch an episode of Super Why was the only way my baby was gonna get fed. Or letting him play Monkey Lunch Box was the only way I would be able to sneak in a shower without having to worry that he’d be plotting against his brother while I was in there.
Another thing started happening recently that TV seems to be the only cure for. A bunch of times over the last month or so, Mario has woken up at 4:30 or 5:00 am and refuses to go back to sleep. So when I get him out of his crib and he’s screaming for Thomas what am I supposed to tell him? Sorry baby. It’s too early for screen time? Truth is, I’d let him watch soft porn on Cinemax if it kept him from waking his brother. So, on those mornings, he watches TV until I am semi-human and can deal with him.
Now don’t get me wrong. Mario’s no slug. He has a ton of books that he loves to read. He’s obsessed with horses and could spend hours lining up the dozens of them he has. He loves cars and trucks and trains and machines. And, his preference is always to play. But sometimes, I just need him to chill. Sometimes I need to give the baby my undivided attention and I can’t do that while neighing and mooing and meowing like the animals in his books. Sometimes I’m just fucking exhausted and I need 15 minutes to have a cup of coffee or slump over on the couch or pick my blackheads in the bathroom mirror. I just can’t be on all the time.
I’m not worried about Mario at all. He’s wicked smart, really active and by all accounts very advanced for his age. As I drove home from that doctor appointment, I was fuming mad — at myself. Why would I lie? I’m a woman in my forties. I have my shit together. In my previous life as a PR person, I could hold my own with any client. I was always confident in my capabilities and never hesitated to tell anybody what I thought even if it meant I’d fall out of favor (maybe I wasn’t such a great PR person after all). So why was I lying to my son’s doctor about something as stupid as cartoons? I guess it’s because I wanted him to think I’m a great mom. I wanted him to admire me for always putting my children first. I wanted him to see my son in all his awesomeness as a reflection of me.
As a stay at home mom, I feel like there’s even more pressure on me to make sure every minute of every day is jam packed with enlightening and uplifting activities for my kids. And for the most part, they are. But sometimes my kid watches TV. Sometimes he watches two consecutive episodes of Thomas the Train and sometimes he insists that I call him Percy. And the American Academy of Pediatrics can suck it. I’m doing the best I can.