Friday, December 31, 2010

The siren screen: resolutions past and present

When I was about 7 months pregnant, my husband and I made a deal.  We got rid of our big old TV, and for his birthday he got two presents:  a really nice electronic keyboard piano that fit in the corner formerly occupied by the TV, and a tiny (11") portable TV-with-DVD player that could be tucked away inside our storage ottoman unless it was urgently needed to watch the play-offs of one sport or another.   We were both pretty happy with this compromise, and agreed that we would be providing a healthier home for our soon-to-be-born child without a TV around all the time.

And then my daughter was born, and I was incredibly grateful for the convenience of a screen of a different kind: my laptop.  For the first couple months of her life, she was pretty much either nursing or sleeping.  And during daylight hours, she liked to be held (and I liked to hold her!) constantly.  Since we hadn't yet achieved one-handed nursing (I think that was around the 2 month mark, although my memory fails me somewhat), reading was quite difficult.  I mean, I could lay a book or magazine in my lap, but I would then get incredibly frustrated when I finished reading one page and couldn't turn to the next!

So, a laptop enabled me to watch some TV shows, read the New York Times, and so on, all while nursing my daughter or holding her as she slept.  I became really good at navigating my laptop with my toes.  No, really.  I could even sign into Gmail with my toes.  I was that good.  It may seem strange that I could type with my toes but not turn pages--but that's the honest-to-goodness truth.  I found that when I tried to turn pages with my feet, I would inevitably turn 3 pages at once, and then could never get back.

But gradually, my daughter started to be more and more awake during the day, and she liked playing down on the floor with me next to her.  Somewhere around the 3 to 4 month mark, I realized that I still had my laptop around almost constantly, even though the baby was no longer always asleep.  And I started to worry about the effects of her seeing my eyes constantly drawn to the screen.

So I resolved to try and use the laptop very little while my daughter was awake.  It was hard, though.  As one commenter pointed out on a previous post about being a (temporary, anyway) stay-at-home-mother, it can be pretty boring to play with a very young baby.  The laptop is so tempting!  It positively beckons you over with its glowing screen, its promises of connection and relevance and videos of puppies...

Finally, last month, I rearranged some furniture and put a desk in the nursery.  The only thing on the desk is my laptop, the charger for which is plugged in behind the desk.  And finally, avoiding laptop use while baby is awake has gotten a little bit easier.  If I don't remove the laptop from the desk, and I don't sit at the desk with baby (which she is unlikely to put up with), the problem is mostly solved.  But it still requires some willpower.
The laptop's new home
So my resolution for the New Year?  Separate screen time from baby time.   Keep the laptop on the desk and the baby where she belongs--far away from screens of all kinds, fully engaged and exploring this big wonderful world of ours.


  1. It seems almost impossible to shield their pure little eyes from tv's, computers, cell phones, etc. Most of the time the battle just seems futile.

  2. I definitely know what you is currently on dad's lap, while he plays a computer game. Sigh.