I am no stranger to addiction. Certain substances have made themselves my constant companion in the past, including sugar, caffeine, and nicotine. With each addiction came a horrible and all-too-powerful feeling that I should be able to stop using, but, well…just this once more.
That sense of guilt and powerlessness has arisen in my life once again in a manner I never could have expected. Much as I’ve wanted to keep this new addiction to myself, it’s time to come clean.
I am addicted to “dinner and a show.”
Dinner and a show is our family’s term for the time when Seabass is strapped into his high chair, fed dinner, and entranced by a video for a half hour or so. We do it every day around 5pm and I feel horrible about it. Mostly.
Like all addictive substances, this one feels really, really good at first:
- He’s immobile, so I can whirl around the house picking up errant socks, toys, and God knows what else he has flung across the room throughout the course of the day.
- He’s entertained, so I’m not being asked to do much more than stay out of the way of the screen.
- He’s distracted, so he tends to eat more adventurously without realizing it, e.g. vegetables.
So what’s the problem? you say. Well, there’s the whole issue of not eating at the table as a family. Seabass still goes to bed around 6pm (I know, crazy) which means dinner for him happens before Jake even gets home from work. That isn’t a sufficient excuse for doing dinner and a show every night, but it does frame the situation.
There’s also the problem of screen time. I SWORE I wouldn’t show my child videos as an easy out from the difficulty of parenting, but it all started innocently enough. I wanted Seabass to learn a few signs so we picked up a sign language video at the library and tried it out over dinner one night. The next thing I knew, Seabass was a signing fiend and started asking for it every afternoon. Well, it’s educational, right? I thought. But very soon, the “show” portion of “dinner and a show” was infiltrated by tractors, trains, and construction videos, all of which have become my son’s particular weakness. I am helpless to intervene.
This week, dinner and a show became especially trying as our DVD player went kaput. Five o’clock P.M. found me running around like a lunatic trying to find similar (and similarly lengthy) YouTube clips to pacify a jonesing Seabass. When I discovered how to create a playlist of train clips that runs on autoplay, Seabass stopped crying and started glazing over in that familiar dinner-and-a-show way. It was a new low.
I’d like to say that I have a plan for how to stop the madness at our house, a plan to axe dinner and a show and begin living full evenings. But I still need it. Perhaps an intervention should be staged.