Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Good Side of TV

Today is a blah kind of day.  My daughter and I are spending the week together without my husband and son, and neither of us are on top of the world today.  She's having allergy issues and I'm not feeling well either.  For people who don't suffer from sever allergies, it's a really horrible thing to deal with.  My daughter's allergies cause the typical watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat, and tiredness, but hers also cause moderate to severe eczema, itchiness all over the body, and even asthma symptoms.

So we're snuggled up in bed and watching television.  I'm really not crazy about daytime tv, but when I switched on MTV and saw Teen Mom was on, the decision was made.

If you've never watched Teen Mom, it follows the lives of four young women--Amber, Maci, Farrah, and Catelynn--who got pregnant at sixteen and are now raising their toddlers, with the exception of Catelynn.  Catelynn and her boyfriend Tyler gave their baby up for adoption.  Interestingly, they are also the only couple still together.

I first watched Teen Mom a few months ago, after hearing my daughter talk about it.  When my kids were young, I really supervised the television viewing.  As they've gotten older, I've given them more freedom.  The kids often talk about the shows they watch, and I do make an effort to peek in.  But when my then-eleven year old started talking about this show, I listened carefully.  My mom-radar started going off like crazy.  So I watched it.

Here's what I found:  this show is a realistic look at teen motherhood.  Some of the girls have given up their education.  One has had to move away from her family.  One of the girls and her boyfriend are dealing with a volatile domestic abuse situation, another young woman is sharing custody with her ex (who's hardly a role model for fatherhood), and two of the teens are still mourning the loss of their baby, even though they know it was the right decision to make.

Teen mom has become one of those shows around our house that we talk about.  My daughter has her own very strong opinions about the show; she has frequently commented on how terrible it is that Amber hits Gary, her boyfriend; she is trying to understand why Catelynn and Tyler would give their baby up for adoption.  My daugher's birth mother was unable to care for her, and my daughter is trying to liken the situations.  She's thinking about it.

It's not often that a show like this comes along, documenting the lives of these girls and everyone who affects them.  There's no sugar-coating the episodes.  Babies cry, people get sick, teenagers are ugly to each other, and there's a lot of friction between the girls' moms and the girls.  But there's also no excessive drama.  These girls love their babies as much as they can; they love other people; they're searching for themselves.  And all of that has brought my daughter to the conclusion that "having a baby is a fun thing, but you have to be able to take care of it."  Well said.

When my children were toddlers/ early preschoolers, they watched no more than thirty minutes a day of television, and they didn't really miss it.  But even then, I tried to give them the opportunity to choose between programs that would be entertaining or lead to interesting conversation.  Scooby Doo was a favorite and still is for millions of kids.  Why?  Because nobody can resist that cute, human sized dog!

If you have young kids or teach them, you will one day face conversations about the television.  It's important for adults to listen to the conversations, even if it's from Scooby Doo.  Television is an extra member in our families these days, and it's a savvy consumer who uses it as a teaching tool to help their children build good values in this world.

Often, parents fail to see the incredible usefulness of television.  Is there crap on TV?  Oh yeah!  But for every bit of crap television there's decent stuff too.  If you're willing to watch with your kid and talk with him or her about it, you'll get a bird's eye view into what and how your child thinks and reasons.  And that, in my opinion, is totally worth an hour of my time.

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