Three and a half years ago my family and I moved into a new home. While selecting paint colors and sleeping assignments, we also made the decision to not place a television in any of the main rooms of our home. This was a deliberate choice on our part because my husband and I both thought of this move as a turning point in our life and a paradigm shift in our lifestyle.
Who would have thought that such a decision would cause such an outcry from our friends and family. Yes, you are reading that correctly. People who do not even live in our house were upset that we were not placing a television as the centerpiece of our home. The responses varied from the comical, “What will all of your furniture face towards?” to the shocking, “I would rather lose my house than loose my T.V. and cable!” I was utterly flabbergasted by what I was hearing.
When did we get to this point in our culture when people cannot imagine living their life without the constant hum of a television in the background? Now I am not that old, only thirty-one for that matter, but I remember going to my grandparents’ house and walking around outside and looking at all of my grandfather’s flower beds and his enormous vegetable garden. I can call to mind sitting at the dining room table with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins playing cards after a big family meal. I recollect playing for hours in the playroom with my sister, not once thinking of the television, but instead being fully engrossed in the imaginary world we created with our dolls. So why then do people look at me cross-eyed when I say that I don’t have a television in my family room?
Now this is not to say that my children have never spent a moment of their lives in from of a television. We have Friday night movie nights in our basement each weekend. We make homemade pizza, pop popcorn and veg out for a couple of hours, watching our favorite princess movie. This week my girls had their first cold of the winter (Not bad, seeing as it is March!) and they spent some time snuggled up watching PBS shows that we have on DVD. But my point is this: Our lives do not revolve around an electrical box that sits on a shelf or is mounted to the wall.
During the day we find ourselves busy with projects and learning, and our evenings are filled with games and reading. And the reading is what we love oh so much! There is truly nothing I love more than to burrow under a hand-made quilt with my girls and venture to a far off land filled with energy and adventure! These are the times that memories are created. These are the times when much is learned. These are the times when I am so glad that my furniture all faces toward a bookshelf, instead of a television.
I leave you with an excerpt we just read a few nights ago from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (My girls are on a Roald Dahl kick these days.):
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all….
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotized by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK—HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take that set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY…USED…TO…READ! They’d READ and
READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales…
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks…
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start—oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.