How We Accidentally Stopped Having a Television
Guest columnist Michelle Sinclair
Editor’s note: Michelle Sinclair is the daughter of columnist Melodie Davis and writes occasionally for Another Way. She works in the advertising department of a major daily newspaper. She and her husband have two small sons.
For some, September is a month for checking out the bevy of new TV shows rolling on air. My family is barely aware of what’s on TV, let alone what’s new.
For now, it’s lovely having no background noise or commercials to worry about. Our house is loud enough!
My husband and I never set out to be a TV-free household. In fact, one of our early debates as a married couple was whether we should have a second TV for our bedroom. When we moved into our first home, we got the runaround from cable providers—do they service our area? Do they not? When can they come? Will they show up? Fed up, we decided we’d just use streaming services like Netflix and put an antenna out back to get the (digital) signals for ABC, FOX, and the other regular broadcast channels. Pretty soon, we got used to not having a cable bill every month and couldn’t imagine life any other way.
Six years later, we moved to our new house with a six-month-old in tow, and TV took a backseat to the other demands on our time as new parents with a house to unpack. We figured we’d set the TV up in the family room eventually, just as soon as we could figure out where to mount our antenna. But weeks turned into months, and our few attempts to figure out which of the snarled cables running up the back of the house connected where, ended in failure.
The TV sat blank and unused in one corner while we chased our crawling son around the family room, playing with blocks and reading him stories. Once he was in bed, we’d sit down in front of our laptops to catch up on news or check out our favorite corners of the Internet.
Once, we tried using our TV to watch a DVD, but the sound carried horribly in our house and woke the baby up—and if we turned it down so low that he wouldn’t hear it, we couldn’t hear it either. Trying to stream Netflix to the set would have resulted in the same problem. So the TV slept on.
The baby turned into a toddler. The TV was no longer a backdrop in our family room, but instead a babyproofing hazard, something the toddler could pull onto himself if we weren’t careful. We weren’t using it anyway, so rather than invest in straps or anchor it, my husband simply moved it into our crawlspace storage area.
So here we are. We don’t miss it. In fact, we love the fact that our nearly three-year-old can’t beg us to watch TV—it doesn’t even occur to him as something we could watch at home. He’s not completely screen-free: he begs us to watch the cement mixer video his daddy recorded near his workplace, or to watch the “I love you, Henry” video from when his baby brother first came home from the hospital (both on our phones).
Our oldest son has seen limited TV at daycare and about 15 minutes of video each day at preschool while his teachers prepare lunch. When he gets older, he’ll probably figure out that our computers can stream TV shows and movies, and we’ll get the begging from that quarter. For now, it’s lovely having no background noise or commercials to worry about. Our house is loud enough! Truth be told, our parents—both his and mine—seem to miss TV more than we do at our house.
When we recently told friends about our TV-less life, they were aghast. “How do you wind down in the evening?” (The answer: with a book or on our computers—we’re hardly purists.) And yes, there are times when we miss being able to watch sports or not have to watch movies huddled around a laptop together and wearing headphones. I’m looking forward to the day when I can enjoy movies or do a TV marathon with my (older) sons. Until then, our family will continue spending our evenings looking at each other instead of a TV screen. Life is engaging enough.
Have you gone without TV? Without Internet? Cell phones? I’d love to hear your stories. Please post at the website www.thirdway.com/aw or send to MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.