Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 49: Better Late than Never

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

I'm going to take another day to soak in some thoughts on trust and control, and in the meantime share a recent revelation and subsequent observation relating to the television.

I've been struggling to find a comfortable relationship with DVDs. I was paying far too much attention to external influences - research, opinions, what other moms are doing - instead of tapping into my intuition. Ironically, it was an external resource that brought me back to my intuition to make peace with the issue once and for all.

Putting on a DVD for Jackson never felt right. There were always feelings of guilt and inadequacy when I hit play - every time. I chalked those up to "shoulds" based on research, wanting to be the fictional 'perfect mom,' or having a black and white view of the issue that should be more gray. I didn't honor the fact that those emotions were coming from within me. In other words, I blew myself off.

I was never happy with how Jackson behaved during and after a DVD, but I blamed it on my absence instead of the DVDs presence (Of course! Don't we moms blame ourselves for everything?). In other words, I used guilt in a negative way by placing blame instead of using it as a positive guidepost for future decisions.

I listened to other moms I respect talk about their kids' favorite shows or movies and saw the TV on in other moms' homes and told myself, "See, they do it. It's not so bad." In other words, I looked at what someone else had decided was right for their family and tried to apply it to mine instead of looking at what I felt was right for my family.

Instead of honoring my intuition, I tried to smother it in reason: I do what we have to do to survive. We're not capable of being a no-TV house anymore. It's not ideal, but it's not that bad. I just need to relax about it and stop being so all or nothing.

Then by chance (or divine intervention) I came home from ECFE a couple weeks ago with a handout on temperament. I'm pretty tuned in to the kids' temperaments and had already done lots of reading on it, so I set the packet on the table and didn't give it another thought until a few days ago when I decided to read through the suggestions for the different traits before I filed it away.

I skipped to the section on sensitivity, knowing that Jackson is off the charts in this trait. There was the expected list: teach your child to recognize when he's becoming overstimulated, be sensitive to how much stimulation your child is receiving from noise, smells, etc., help your child avoid situations that are overwhelming, and so on. But then there was this simple suggestion: Limit the amount of television your child watches.

Somehow seeing it under the category of sensitivity and overstimulation finally helped me make the connection. I was uncomfortable with it because I knew deep down that it had a negative emotional and physical impact on Jackson. Not because of the research on brain development, not because of the arbitrary number of hours "they" call acceptable or unacceptable, not even because of a change in his behavior. Those feelings were there because I know him in an inexplicable way that can only be felt.

The fact that I couldn't put my finger on why I didn't like it or what felt wrong about it shouldn't have stopped me from acting on the feeling. When it comes to mothering, the feeling is enough.

Five days without the TV have validated my instincts. He's not needing more attention without the distraction of a movie, he's actually needing less. Instead of asking for a DVD (since they've all been removed from our living space and relegated to the depths of our place-here-if-you-never-want-it-to-be-found-again mess of a storage room), he happily plops down with a lump of homemade playdough and entertains himself creatively for an hour.

He's happier and more at peace without the bombardment of screen full of action overstimulating him (even if the action was just Cinderella going to a ball!). And the fact that he readily accepted the change, even seemed to welcome it, also validates that he also knew it wasn't a healthy activity for him.

I'm disappointed that it took me so long to acknowledge and honor my intuition, that I allowed other things to guide my choice. But I'm thankful for the experience because it reinforces what I'm always preaching to myself and other moms: Trust your instincts above all else. We are each experts on our own children and no one else knows what's right for us and our families like we do.

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