Why Nobody Died When We Got Rid Of TV.

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I mentioned recently that we don’t have TV. Readers reacted. It was cute.

Our decision to remove television from our daily lives was not entirely for the reasons you might think. Also, our kids are actually allowed to watch it a little from the internet. But they rarely choose to. So here’s how that phenomenon came about and why…

The Reasons: A Combo of Old-Fashioned Values, Creativity Values, & Futurist-Techie Geekiness

Old Fashioned Values: It’s probably obvious from my blog that I only embody some old-fashioned values while many others I shun. I’m quite strict and traditional when it comes to what I think is appropriate content for children — more strict even than many of the religious families I know. There are a lot of “children” shows that are surprisingly not really child-friendly.

Restricting content is the easy part, though. You just tell the kids why they can’t watch a certain show and then empathize with their wishes that TV producers wouldn’t deliver that kind of content to children. Kids understand honest reasoning, and they respond well to your empathy toward their unfulfilled wishes.

Creativity Values: It’s the general limiting of time on the television that I found difficult. For years we let our kids watch TV, more than I ever thought I would as a parent. I am an avid non-watcher. I always thought I’d be good at limiting the amount they watched. It turns out that if you’re also distracted with an exciting lot of projects you enjoy, it’s hard to monitor amounts. And when a child sinks into the TV habit, it’s hard for him or her to motivate themselves to do creative stuff.

Plus, all day, everyday, our kids were constant infomercials to Izzy and me, pitching sales lines like, “At Best Western, if you drop a towel, they’ll pick it up for you!”

We supposedly needed this mattress, and that kitchen device, and a million different other things. The kids were adding items to their own Christmas list every single day starting Dec. 26 of each new year.

Futurist Techie Geekiness:
Then something amazing happened. Television shows began to appear on the internet! Izzy loves diving into the future headfirst before anyone else has gotten there, and as soon as a handful of shows became available online he sat the family down and made a proposition. He told the kids that we would let them each buy a TV show episode from Netflix every week in place of the TV. They could also watch some shows online.

The kids agreed. We canceled the satellite. For probably four years now, absolutely zero shows feed though the big black box in our living room. It only works for gaming and DVD’s now. We don’t even have local channels.

Then The Magic Happenend

Something truly magical and amazing happened two or three weeks after we got rid of TV — the kids lost interest! They stopped requesting the weekly show we promised to purchase for them. Since that time, internet television has grown and shows are easier to access than ever (and are usually free) but our kids only sit down to watch them around once a month or so. It’s amazing.
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A few weeks ago we were having dinner and one of the kids piped up, “It’s so weird how a bunch of my friends will start talking about some toy that they all know about but I’ve never heard of it. It’s because they learn about all this stuff on commercials.”

The other of our older two children agreed to noticing the same thing.

Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought. They’re going to tell us that it bugs them how weird and different we are from everybody else.

“So, how do you feel about that?” I asked.

“It’s okay,” one said.

“Yeah, I don’t care,” said the other. “It’s just weird that they all know about the same things.”

Wow. I was not expecting them to be cool with that. I mean, I personally have never minded being different all my life. But I don’t know many other people who are cool with it.

So we talked about how much time they have to be creative and make things — which they do daily — and they said it’s a good trade.

We may be secularist, vegan, non-materialist, non-TV weirdo’s, but we’re a bit Leave It To Beaver, too.

Two Nights In Tuscon

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The kids might not think this was such a great spring break anymore if they knew that Izzy and I thought we would take them to Disneyland for about a day before we remembered the ticket prices and decided on Tuscon instead.
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In Tuscon we can entertain the kids for free by having them walk long distances.
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A retired salesman, Izzy decided to incorporate an advertising tactic when we told the kids our plans for spring break: give it a catchy name/slogan. . .

Two Nights In Tuscon

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Our spring break announcement was a success. All week Aiden asked us, “When are we going to Two Nights In Tuscon?”
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We bought each child a disposable camera for our hike up Sabino Canyon…
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While they all three claimed the hike and the cameras were a favorite part of our vacation, it was Aiden that really got serious about the photography. We realized we might be raising a future brilliant photographer as we watched him frame shot after shot, remembering how he begged for a digital camera for Christmas a few years ago. And how he asked for another one this year since he left his first one in the backyard for many days.

Then we learned his true goal. He found a video on YouTube that shows how you can turn an empty disposable camera into a taser gun. You can even see him fantasizing the possibilities of that plastic black box with buttons in this picture here. . .
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You can also see in the above picture one of the many reasons I will never move away from Arizona. My heart got stuck on the thorns of a saguaro cactus a number of years ago.

In that same picture you can also see why our oldest child, the one far off in the lower right corner, is in few of the pictures. You know it’s not because of camera shyness. It’s that he’s Mr. Independent now and doesn’t want to hang back with the slow folks bothering with cameras.

He can slow himself down, though, to spend a little time with his baby brother. . .
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But he’s not afraid to climb all over people, even family, to get what he wants.
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It’s during these precious moments when I wonder if Trinity is missing out. She doesn’t have a sister to climb all over. She seems to be okay, though. She has me to trade clothes with.

And she has her daddy.
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And he’s a dad that shows her every day how a real man treats his girls. And his family.
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4-Year Old Skeptic

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Aiden is proving to be our most skeptical child. And it’s not because he’s negative or doubtful. He’ll actually tap dance for strangers and ask if they would like to pay him for it. He’s skeptical because he likes to figure out how a thing came together. At two years old we constantly found him lying on the floor watching the wheels of a toy car as he glided it back and forth, trying to grasp, I think, how the wheels turned while the car didn’t.

At four years old he learned (and understood!) how to count musical notation.

These days he makes stuff out of paper or trash. We can hardly throw anything away because he sees it as a potential component to something he can build. Recently he designed a three-dimensional box out of paper and provided picture instructions on how to do it. Yesterday he took two light bulb boxes from the recycle bin, taped them together, and devised rules for a game, again, with illustrated instructions.

This desire to break everything down to components and answers has made the holidays an interesting experience. At four years old Aiden found a packaged toy in our bedroom closet and announced with a huge smile that Mom and Dad go shopping and pretend to be Santa Clause. There was no disappointment because the magic was in having potentially figured it out.

We didn’t give him an outright yes or no. I just asked him, “What makes you think that?” And when he gave me his evidence, I nodded my head and said, “Very interesting idea.” I’m learning he doesn’t want us to give him a definite yes or no. He prefers a little mystery so he can continue to find evidence to prove or disprove his theories.

Skepticism & The Tooth Fairy

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On Christmas Eve, at six-and-a-half years old, Aiden finally lost his first tooth and we were expecting a meeting between two holiday mystery characters. Santa Clause and the tooth fairy in one night! Of course, the solution of one led to the solution of the other. “I know Mom is the tooth fairy,” he said.

We played our usual run-around game, ”Why do you assume it’s Mom? What if it’s Dad?”

He laughed, “Because the Tooth Fairy is a girl!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “In that short film Dad made, Larry was the Tooth Fairy.”

“Oh, yeah…” Aiden stewed on that, looking back and forth from me to Israel.

Last week when he lost his second tooth he decided to take a risk and test his theory by addressing the tooth fairy, herself. Or, himself. After receiving payment for his tooth he put a note under his pillow. Israel and I responded to it on the same piece of paper, with a little clue to the true nature of the “tooth fairy.” The new information surprised him so he asked a follow-up question and we answered that, as well. It continued for a few nights. Here’s what the note said after the third night:

Aiden: I love you.

Tooth fairy: Thank you for the teeth. We love you too.

Aiden: Who are you!

Tooth fairy: We are the ones who buy your special teeth.
We are the tooth fairy.
Why do you want to know?

Aiden: Because I want to see what you look like.

Tooth fairy: I look a little bit like you. –#1
(in different handwriting): And so do I. –#2

Apparently, we threw him off with our last response. He came running into the kitchen where the rest of us were sitting at the table and he announced, “My toothfairies are clones of me!”

We exchanged looks. We questioned his theory. We asked him to read his note again and emphasized the words, “a little bit.” But he wasn’t thinking about the qualifier. He was chewing on the implications of this new bizarre idea. He looked around the dining table, shot his arm into to a point toward Blake and yelled, “And your tooth fairy must be two clones of you!” He then pointed to Dad and Trinity and myself, “And you have your own clones . . . and so do you!”

We were slightly concerned.

To Discover Or To Be Told

Later that night Aiden confided in me. “I’m embarrassed that I wrote, ‘I love you,’ to my clones. I meant for that to go to you because I thought you were the tooth fairy.”

I couldn’t keep his sweet vulnerability exposed like that. I told him, “You know, Aiden? A lot of people say that I look a little bit like you.”

“No, you don’t,” he answered.

Now I understood his switch to the Clone Theory. He had no idea we look similar. “Yeah, I really do. A little bit.”

Recognition pushed his eyes wide open and he emphasized the words, “A little bit?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And Daddy looks a little like you, too.”

He smiled and his embarrassment vanished. But within minutes disappointment replaced it and he complained to us, “Now I know for sure that Mom and Dad are the tooth fairy.” It turns out he really does prefer the questions, the theories, the evidence collecting, over hearing the answer from someone else.

“I didn’t say that, Aiden,” I immediately backtracked. “Blake and Trinity look like you, too. And Grandma Gertrude has the same exact nose as you.”

He laughed and let it go. Hopefully, I left it open just enough for him to have sunk back into his happy state of wonderful skeptical inquiry again. His third tooth is loose now and Easter is on its way, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough. If not, it might be time to nudge his questions in a newer, deeper direction, anyway.
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