No TV, more get done

Nothing like doing chores for grandma to impress mom.

“You do all that down there? How?” our visiting teenager’s mom asked
“No TV,” the teen explained simply.
And that is also an answer when folks ask me the same question.

Yes, we have a television set – in fact we have two. One in the living room that has to be unplugged to turn it off and a very small portable set in the back bedroom which has not been plugged in for months.

No, I do not find it a major sacrifice or adjustment to live with a dominantly silent set. With the exception of one year as a child, I only watched television at my grandmother’s house: Lassie and Disney on Sunday nights – and once in a while I got a whole day or two of vacation spent watching non-stop re-runs until I literally got a sick headache.

Through the years I asked my mother ‘why’ we couldn’t have a television. She had a ready answer, “there just is too much homework to do, music to practice, housework and chores to do to have a TV.”

So instead of learning the theme song to Bonanza and Gilligan’s Island, we learned to play trumpet, trombone, clarinet and piano. Instead of watching Captain Kangaroo show us how to fold a paper hat and paper boat, my mom and dad sat and worked with us until we all sported paper hats and held paper boats. Instead of rushing to watch Walter Cronkite assure us “And that’s the way it is,” we read newspapers and news magazines.

And we all learned that even when visiting homes with a TV, when our dad decided it was time to go home, he did not hear us say, “just a minute, I want to finish watching …”

Because my husband’s parents bought a television when he was in middle school, he heartily advocated that we not have a set. And that’s how things continued for the first 13 or 14 years of our marriage.

Our TV deprived teens grasped current events well enough to pass tests at school with flying colors, participated in after school activities and read a lot of books.

No one will ever say that we passed housekeeping with flying colors, but our children learned early on that I do not like seeing kids sitting around watching me cook, clean and do the laundry – not even if there was a really good show.

Because, yes, we did eventually buy an old black and white TV – at a yard sale – because I really wanted to play the Atari games I had found at another yard sale. Games yielded to carefully selected viewing of programs such as the Cosby Show, “And now turn it off and get your homework done.”

That was the kid rule. In the afternoons, for many, many months I watched a soap opera until I realized “enough already!” I have something better to do with my time. I quit.

A couple of our children have made a similar choice. Either they have no set – one family dumped their set this winter just before the switch to digital – or they have tucked it away in storage for the summer, or the set goes off after a half hour of carefully selected viewing.

With visiting grandchildren, all that non-TV time means more time to play games, work on crafts, visit parks and museums, read books and play with the overflowing cupboard of toys, dolls and trucks.

I guess it works. As one Texas granddaughter said, “It’s fun here, we do things.”

Of course, it took that same granddaughter her a couple days, during her first long visit to work up the courage to ask, “Don’t you have a TV?”

“Sure,” I pointed at the back of the set with its screen pressed hard up against the wall.

“But we aren’t going to be watching it this week. You can do that at home any time.”

She studied me silently for a moment, before returning to exercise her imagination with the toys.