I have five kids and our place is quite small and we have only one television.  I don’t enjoy the too small place, but the one television thing is not because we cannot afford another television.  No, we (much to my children’s distress) PLANNED it this way all along.   We have neither a VCR (we replaced ours six times with increasingly bad quality machines  that kept breaking down, before quitting all together about a year ago.) nor a Tivo.  Thus, my children are forced to compromise on a daily basis.  They are forced to cut deals and if there’s something they really want to see, they start lobbying for it a week in advance!  Unfortunately,  they are disappointed regularly when their dad trumps them and takes over the tv out of the blue.

When this happens they are forced to go find something else to do.  And, as we only have one computer (this is also planned) they have to compromise there too.  And because I work on the computer, and my son’s homeschooling program is there, and my daughter often uses it for her homework… it’s a busy machine.  There is no guarantee that at any time you will be able to surf the net or watch a favorite program, so my kids have learned to find other things to do.

They read a lot.  They ride bikes and scooters and they skate.  They play games and, mostly, they fight.  A lot.  But one  thing they DON’T do is retire to their rooms to be alone and shut out the rest of the family.  This is because they all share rooms, but mostly because there is nothing to keep them in there when they go.  No tv, no computer… so we see them.  A LOT.  We see them so much that sometimes I want them to go away!  I’m having a moment!

A friend of ours told a very sad story a while back that inspired this post.  He told how when his family came home from being out, he’d go to his room to work, his wife would go to the kitchen and his kids would each go in their rooms and shut the doors.  He would look around and think to himself, “Now why did I ever want a family again?”  It got stuck in my head, mostly because that doesn’t happen in our house and I was trying to figure out why.  And then it came to me… it’s because my kids are BORED our of their frickin’ minds and so they come find some other family member to bother to have something to do!  It’s not because we are better people then our friend, or better parents, it’s just that his kids’ rooms are chock full of gadgets to enjoy and my kids’ rooms are soooo not.

So, since I figured this out, I thought I’d pass it on.  Not an easy way to live, and certainly (for my poor poor mistreated children) not the most fun way either, but it works for us.  Our family is extremely close and I really do believe that this rule played a large part of that (As did living in such close proximity).  I know someone who actually has two televisions in their living room side by side, and they often watch different programs at the same time!  It’s so loud and busy and distracting, I don’t know how they handle it, but their kids have grown up like that and have no problems with it.  These same people have a television in their room, and one each in each kids room.  There are MORE televisions in that house then there are people living there.  Madonna, with her no television rule is at one end of the spectrum, and my friend is on the other.

So my advice (which you can take with a grain of salt?) try to find a happy medium and remember, if you force your kids to find something to do, they WILL find something to do.  And hopefully that something won’t involve drugs, alcohol or, you know, prison time…  We watch a lot of puppet shows and magic shows and plays that my kids put on.  They draw and make oragami and write songs and practice their instruments… and they whine and they pick at each other and they fight too, yes, but I have chosen to see this as a normal sibling thing (La la la la la, I’m not litening!) and nothing to worry about.  I’m sure when they are all adults they will adore each other.   (But as long as they PRETEND to adore each other in front of me when I’m in my golden years, I’m cool…)