I am guilty of it. I need a break in the evening, a chance to unwind and just be. Sitting on the couch next to my husband, glass of wine in hand, no kids, watching a mindless show. This was my favorite part of the day. Every day. So I get it, I really do. There is no shame in having a TV in your kids bedroom. My oldest is 6 and we put one in her room around age 3 against our pediatricians recommendation. We did it anyway. And it was amazing! Quite evenings, kids entertained. Time to relax!
Then one day just out of blue I was cleaning out my kids rooms, while they were away of course because otherwise you aren't allowed to get rid of anything. "Mom, I need that empty juice bottle." And it dawned on me. What would happen if I take the TV out? Will my life tail spin into deep despair and regret? Will my husband and I never have a quite evening moment again? OR will it be the best thing I have done as a parent? And I can always put it back if it turns out to be a disaster.
So I took the TV out of my daughter's bedroom.
I gave up my dining room (again) and gave my kids their playroom back. I have a love/ hate relationship with the playroom but its also 1 room I have to keep tidy and not 2 bedrooms + a hallway. Its the lesser of the evils.
When the kids returned home, I shared the good news first. "You're getting your playroom back!" They were overwhelmed with excitement which quickly turned to sadness once they noticed the TV in the playroom. "But you put the TV in here too mom."
This quickly turned into lots of questions from my 6 and 4 year old. "Why did you take out the TV?" "What are we supposed to do at night?" "Can we not watch movies anymore?" "WHY??"
"Well," I responded. "We are going to read books each night before you go to bed." I could've easily said, " because I am selling you on the black market," and I would've gotten the same response. DEVASTATION.
Now, my kids LOVE books, they love to read with us, when they want to. They love the library and often will ask for books as gifts. But switching out the TV to listen to their mother read to them was too much of a compromise. I knew ahead of time I was going to be met with resistance so I was prepared and I busted out the big guns- Roald Dahl.
One of my closest friends gave my oldest daughter an entire collection of Roald Dahl books for her birthday one year and often we would take one down from the shelf and toy with reading it, but without pictures it didn't go over well. However, since the point is to get them to go to sleep, I don't want them trying hard to stay awake to see pictures and I knew this was going to take a long time to adjust and I needed about 200 pages of words just in case. We started with Charlie and the Chocolate factory.
The first couple of nights were rough. I regretted this decision. It took forever for them to fall asleep. I became thirsty an hot and agitated while lying in bed with 2 very wide awake little girls. When I finished reading, my husband had already gone to bed most nights. Sometimes it was after 10pm. But I stuck with it. I was determined to make this work. I am a big supporter of research and I knew this was going to be better for my kids and better for my family. Honestly if a new study was published stating that chewing glass would make smarter kids I would be in the kitchen breaking dishware rather than writing this blog.
We began an entirely new bedtime routine. Dad brushes teeth, everyone says goodnight then the girls and I lay in my oldest daughter's bed for story time. I keep a bright nightlight near me to see the words and we snuggle and I read and I read and sometimes I read for almost an hour. And eventually they fall asleep. In a marine type operation I slowly creep out from under the blanket and walk ever so softly across the floor. Once I am free and the bedroom door is closed, its like I escaped Alcatraz. After a few days I already noticed changes in my kids behavior. We seemed to be closer and their morning attitude was so much better. They were getting more rest and I was feeling really good about this decision.
Day after day and night after night, I kept reading. We finally got a golden ticket. We got to meet Mr Wonka. We learned that awful children get their just desserts. We learned that grateful children get rewarded. We learned that the oompa- loompa songs are extremely long in the book. We cheered when Charlie was given the factory. And we celebrated when we read our very first big book together. We watched the movie as a family and ate popcorn. We have inside jokes now. My kids will say, "Mom that reminds me of something Willy Wonka would say." We are looking in every store possible for Wonka bars. My kids have loved spending this time with me.
And my favorite part of the day has been exchanged for snuggles and hugs and listening to the adventures of Charlie Bucket.