“TV rots your brain.”
I don’t actually recall my mom saying this. But I know that she believed that spending too much time parked in front of the television was not healthy or productive. We had a TV set in the living room; we just weren’t allowed to watch more than one hour of TV each day, except on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Each Friday night, my stepdad handcrafted homemade pizza for us, and sometimes doughnuts, and we’d all pile into the living room to watch T.G.I.F. on ABC.
Growing up, we didn’t have many battery-operated toys, either. She encouraged us to use our imaginations and to entertain ourselves with Barbies, skates, and forts made with old sheets and dining room chairs. We never owned any video-gaming equipment, even though all our friends owned a Nintendo gaming system. When my stepsister Sarah brought a Nintendo set home with her one Christmas, we thought it was the best thing since the jambox. However, just like the TV, Mom limited the time we spent playing Nintendo, too.
Instead of being mesmerized by battery-powered toys and electronic or digital media, we spent most of our time playing with each other (which sometimes resulted in fighting with each other), reading books, writing stories, inventing intricate games in the backyard, cuddling our pets, and prancing around in my mom’s old high school prom dresses and discarded heels. Since most of our time was spent face-to-face, we learned how to interact. We learned how to argue. We learned how to resolve fights. We learned how to persuade each other to give up the cuter Barbie in exchange for two ugly ones. We got plenty of exercise, and in spite of our initial stage of whining each time we were sent outside to play, we all gained an appreciation of the outdoors and found joy in nature.
Whether my mom intended to teach us any of these lessons, or to buck up against technology, or to foster our social and intellectual growth, I’m not sure. She might have just wanted some peace and quiet in a house full of five girls. But I have a feeling she knew that we’d grow up to be healthier, more productive, and more creative adults someday if we didn’t let TV rot our brains.