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Parents' Greatest Inevitable Blooper

March 02, 1994|ROBIN ABCARIAN

My 18-month-old daughter was imprisoned in her highchair, having a snack. I was horizontal, recuperating from stomach flu. The TV was on. A child was saying goodby to his mother. It was a maudlin scene, one that was milked for all it was worth. My daughter looked alarmed.

"That mama's going bye-bye," I said.

She burst into tears.

"Mamaaaaaa," she wailed, pointing at the set. "Bye-byeeeeee."

"Don't worry," I said, trying to calm my hysterical child. "That baby is going to be just fine."

I should sue the producers of this movie for intentional infliction of emotional distress on a baby. Maybe a class-action suit is in order.

Anyone else out there got a kid traumatized by "Dumbo"?

As soon as she could walk, I knew television was going to be an issue. She is drawn to it like a dog to a dirty diaper, punching the buttons, running scared but proud when she gets the volume to jet engine levels. By trial and error, she has taught herself how to use the remote control.

Oh, I know, there are parents reading this whose lips are curling into smug grins, who are shaking their heads and feeling sorry for me because I have exposed my precious child's sponge-like brain to the nefarious influence of the idiot box.

To those poor souls, I can only say this: You will never, ever know the joy of explaining to your child how the laws of physics are different in cartoons, and how dropping the iron on the dog's head could kill it.

Putting your child in front of a television is as dangerous as smoking your first cigarette and enjoying the high. With smoking, you think: I'll only borrow cigarettes. Then: OK, I'll buy a pack, but never a carton. By then, you're a goner.

With TV, you think: I'll only let her watch "Sesame Street" while I take a shower and blow my hair dry. Then: I'll only let her watch PBS Kid Zone programs such as "Mister Rogers," "Lambchops Play-Along" and "Sesame Street." Next thing you know, Barney is rearing his purple pea-brained head.

We have yet to formulate a coherent and binding set of television regulations for our daughter, but when we do, I can assure you, expediency will be a major factor. We will, for instance, let her watch Barney, not because we can stand him, but because he is on when the services of the box-shaped baby-sitter are required.

And isn't that what good parenting is all about?

A few years ago, my sister, Jennifer, owned a greeting card company that specialized in snappy, sympathetic messages for overwrought mothers and underappreciated secretaries.

She corralled me into brainstorming sessions during which we'd sit around dreaming up punch lines for the cards.

"And on the Seventh Day, God rested," for example. "His secretary, as usual, put in an eight-hour day."

One of the best-selling cards, though, was aimed at first-time parents: "The three biggest myths of parents-to-be" it went. "We'll never bribe our little one with sweets. We'll never use the TV as a baby-sitter. And, of course, our lives won't change."

I, for one, think parents who bribe their children with sugar are no better than criminals.

By the way, are graham crackers considered sweets?

We stood in the elevator clucking, my colleague and I. She had just returned from visiting friends in another city, friends who have not allowed television into the life of their 7-year-old son, friends who gave the boy a ball of string and a ream of paper for Christmas, because he would have "so much more fun" with them than with toys.

A ball of string?


No television?


What's he like?

Sweet . . . but different. We took him to a movie and he thought the bad guys were going to jump off the screen and come after him.

You are kidding me!

Nope\f7 .

We went on like that until the elevator doors opened.

There is no sport so satisfying as trashing another parent's child-rearing techniques. Especially when it comes to television.

My husband and daughter were sitting on the bed, both clutching bottles, eyes fixed on the television set. (Juice for her, Heineken for him.) On the screen, two black-and-white glamour pusses, in close-up. "Casablanca." Rick was telling Ilsa that the troubles of two people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

"I don't think this is appropriate for her to be seeing," I clucked.

"So change it."

I turned on cartoons. Wile E. Coyote was getting smashed by an Acme Co. anvil.

"You think this mayhem is better for her than 'Casablanca'?" he asked.

Meanwhile, on a Moroccan airstrip. . . .

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