Lazy or Wise?

After dropping Ben off at the airport, Sophie and I went to Trader Joe’s for single-parenting supplies: frozen tamales, frozen meatballs, frozen fish, frozen berries, dehydrated berries, extra cereal, pasta-sauce, korma-sauce, and mac-and-cheese. Of course we got the basics, too, fresh fruit and milk and yogurt and what veggies we could find at TJs, but we also got more packaged food than usual, because I’m going to be a single parent for the next 6 weeks, until I finish teaching the spring semester and then Sophie and I will join Ben in Europe.

I realize this is nothing like what true single-parents do, or what, say, any military spouse has to do. But it’s my own little marathon.

Day 1 of single-parenting was actually fairly pleasant, to my surprise. There was some traffic on the way to the airport, so we got to watch planes coming in for a landing right over our heads. This excitement meant that Sophie truly understood where we were. All day long, Sophie kept announcing, “Daddy airplane.” She said it with enthusiasm, like it meant, “Daddy’s having an adventure.” She’ll probably get moody in a couple days when she realizes quite how long this adventure will separate him from her, but, for now, she and I had a pleasant day, and she seemed to understand that he misses her, even though he’s gone.

We invented new games with her tunnel and her flute. We hid and then found her plastic easter-eggs, again and again: a week since Easter, that game still isn’t old. We went to the park, but it was 86 degrees, so soon enough we just went to Trader Joes for all that packaged food.

Then I actually did manage to cook dinner from scratch because I propped Sophie in front of her 21-minute DVD of Elmo in “Musics Works Wonders.”

This is the only thing that Sophie watches on television. I bought it a month ago at the used-cart at the library, for 75 cents, and I’m embarrased to admit that Sophie has watched that Elmo DVD at least four times a week since then.  On the plus side, she lived almost 23 months without seeing any tv, except for an occasional surf-video glimpsed in fleeting moments. She’s still not interested in tv in general: I tried a Dora DVD and some other underwater-adventure-thing that I borrowed from the kid’s section of the library after this Elmo DVD became such an obsession for Sophie, but really all she wants to watch is Elmo. Occasionally she’s even managed to turn on the tv and video on her own. I know every word in that darn blessed 21-minute Elmo video. I don’t think those songs are ever going to come out of my head.

The video is actually pretty well-done, even if it does start to grate on adult ears after a month of repetition. Every time she watches it, Sophie sits on the couch with her tambourine, triangle, drum, and kazoo, eagerly making music with Elmo and his friends. She sings along. She chats with me about what she’s seeing. She says “bye-bye,” when it’s over, and then she wants to make up new music-games like the ones on Sesame Street. It’s not as passive as tv could be.

Today, after the video was over, we invented the game that I would dance ridiculously as long as she played the recorder, then freeze in some crazy dance-pose whenever she stopped tooting. This made her giggle so hard she almost couldn’t play the flute enough to get me out of a few contorted moves.

Watching her clap and dance and even try to snap her fingers every time I play music in the car has made us both enjoy our recent car-trips much more. I credit Elmo for teaching her all this relish for music that she’s had lately.

Still, I feel guilty that my baby has become a tv-watcher.

We started with the rule of One Elmo a Day, but it turns out that Elmo-in-the-morning is a wonderful way for me to take a shower and get dressed. Then Elmo-in-the-evening is a great way to get dinner cooked. And it’s just so hard to resist when Sophie exclaims, “Elmo! Elmo!” while scrambling onto the couch and then concentrating furiously on pushing the buttons of the remote-control with one hand, while grasping her drumstick in the other hand, eager to play along with Elmo’s concert.

I’m less intimidated by my next 6 weeks of single-parenting because I’ve got Elmo. How sad is that?

And yes, more Sesame-Street DVDs are in the netflix queu. They should be arriving shortly. We don’t actually have tv reception, only movie-watching capability. That and frozen tamales and good friends should get me through the next 6 weeks of single-parenting fairly well. I’ll see. I’ll keep you all updated, of course.

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4 responses to “Lazy or Wise?

  1. It’s obviously a tad odd to suggest more and different televisual stuff for someone who’s feeling conflicted about the amount of time one spends in front of the Box anyway, but from an avuncular perspective, I’ve always come at the issue that the way to keep parents sane is to promote diversity of source, so that one doesn’t have to hear the same blessed thing over and over, ad nauseum. I hooked my brother up with They Might Be Giants’ kids album and DVD, with some success, but even a hip nerdcore band promoting child literacy and numeracy can get annoying apparently. He’s also used the free Sesame Street podcast — “The Word on The Street” — which includes vocab, bizarre primetime TV guest stars, and classic bits from the ’70s. The main problem with that is that it’s computer-based, which might be an unhelpful blurring of work space and play space.

  2. variableclouds

    Good luck on going it on your own for six weeks- I’m sure it’ll be hard on you, Sophie, and Ben. At least you’ll have a wonderful England adventure at the end of it! Of course, I know you will handle it with more laughter than tears.
    I’m sharing your questioning of how to use media appropriately, because I’ve already been using Youtube and kids music sites as a way to find lyrics and music to sing to Noah, which he loves, but I wonder if this is just one more way he’s learning that the internet is more fun than the real world. That’s an activity he does with me, with the computer, but he certainly sees me emailing and looking stuff up online plenty… and he already loves tv, and I have to take him out of the room when his grandpa is watching golf, because he will just stare at it in a trance.

  3. amysilverman

    Maybe I’m just rationalizing, but I maintain that I got my love of reading and words and my geekdom in general not just from my book loving geeky parents, but from Sesame Street and Electric Company. True, Elmo is incredibly annoying to us, but to me, he’s like the high-pitched whistle only dogs can hear. Little kids hear something different coming out of him. If he was selling crack, yeah, that would be a problem. But he’s selling friendship and good manners and a love of learning. Wow, I sound like I was brainwashed! Perhaps. But I wouldn’t turn back time and take Elmo away from my Sophie. Although I wouldn’t mind skipping the “Elmo Live!” show next week…..

  4. elewinnek

    Ben, Heather, and Amy, I am so lucky to have such wise friends. You all are right, I think: Elmo is fine in small doses, variety is what I need, and the most important thing is something that I think that Sophie already knows, that the real world is more worthwhile than the virtual world. All of us are here reading online, which means that we find some satisfaction in the virtual world. We’re not going to ban it entirely. We’re just going to all do our best to keep it in its place, which is second-place to the actual, physical world — or at least it should be. Thanks for the reassurance and wisdom.

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