By Sandy Driver
There was a time when my three children were television nuts. At any point during the day, you could walk through my house and hear everything from Power Rangers and Rugrats coming from my daughter’s room to heavy metal music and the World Wrestling Federation from the room my sons shared. A day without All My Children and a week without Monday Night Football were rare, because my husband, Tim, and I were both addicted as well.
My sons, Josh and Jake, have grown up roughhousing with each other, occasionally including their little sister, Katie. We tried several punishments, but nothing seemed to work. I had read that many experts attribute children’s discipline problems today to what they were exposed to on television. As a working mother, however, it was very hard to turn the switch off. The television was an excellent babysitter while I was cooking dinner or folding laundry.
In 1996, we moved to a rural area in Honeycomb Valley in north Alabama . Tim and I were so excited about the wonderful country house we had found to rent that we failed to notice one tiny detail that our kids spotted within minutes of our moving in: our televisions did not work. There were no cable lines connected to the house, no antennas mounted on the roof, and no satellite in the yard. All three kids immediately began repacking their belongings; to them, this was sufficient cause to move back to town. I admit that I was somewhat apprehensive myself. What would we do without a television?
The next day brought no solutions. Tim called the nearest cable company only to find out that there were no cable lines running anywhere close to our property. A call to the landlord was even more dismal. He informed us that the house was so deep in a valley surrounded by mountains that even with an antenna we would not get good reception. We thought about getting a satellite, but at the time our finances just would not permit it.
We were all very depressed; up until that point, our lives had been truly centered around the tube. During the next six months, our attitude changed. The family became more peaceful than it ever had. With 13 acres of woods, open fields, a pond, seven cats, seven chickens, a rooster, and four dogs, my children became very busy. They caught baby rabbits, frogs, and worms, climbed trees, picked wildflowers, helped plant a garden, gathered eggs, and caught catfish for their supper. When night fell, if they weren’t too exhausted, we played cards or checkers and caught lightning bugs. All three children started reading more. The resulting behavior changes were amazing. The boys did not fight as much as they used to, and they stopped picking on their little sister. They developed a stronger bond with one another and stuck together most of the day. I saw a big difference also in my marriage.
Without daily soap operas and weekend sporting events to watch, my husband and I were drawn closer together and became more involved with the children’s activities. I’m not saying that television is bad; but without it my family, which had grown apart, became whole again. Little things like watching a kitten chase a moth, a squirrel climb a tree, or a puppy roll in the hay suddenly became an evening of prime-time entertainment for us.
The children even stopped complaining about not having television. When my daughter and I went to visit my parents, my father switched on Nickelodeon, thinking Katie would enjoy it. “You can watch TV at Poppa’s house,” he told her. After about five minutes, Katie stood up with a bored look and announced that she was going outside to play.
Sandy Driver and her husband, Tim, live in Albertville , Alabama , where both were born and raised. Their children are Josh (14), Jake (11), and Katie (10). Sandy ‘s writing has been published in magazines, including Alabama Living, Spirit, and Woman’s Touch.