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Last Wednesday, Adeline and I were standing in the kitchen as the movers did a first look at the apartment to see where things would go. I mentioned to one of the guys that there’s an elevator, but it’s in the back and it’s small and you need a key. He looked a little crestfallen as he agreed that the stairs would probably be best.

Then Adeline piped in with “Edavator!”

“Did she just say ‘elevator’?” He was laughing and wide-eyed.

“Oh yeah, she loves elevators.”

“How old is she?”

“Twenty months.”

His eyes got even bigger. “Wow, that’s a big word. She must watch a lot of Sesame Street!”

He laughed and I laughed with him. They got on with their work and Addie and I spent the day frantically trying to keep organized as our house full of stuff was unloaded into a three-bedroom apartment. But the conversation stuck with me. Because here’s the thing: Addie has never watched Sesame Street. Not even one episode.

I’d guess that she’s watched about twenty minutes of t.v. total her entire life (well, in addition to some football last fall). We have occasionally tried to get her to watch children’s shows – mostly on a flight when we would do just about anything to make her sit still – but she’s just not interested. And I’m certainly not going to push the issue.

One argument for children’s t.v. shows is that they help kids learn, especially when it comes to language. Despite the fact that the science shows this doesn’t really work (at least not for infants and young toddlers) I’ve had multiple people say this to me. For awhile I felt guilty, as though maybe I should be making her watch t.v. Then Adeline went ahead and proved me right.

She knows hundreds of words. She often uses four or five word sentences. She counts to three and is starting to try her ABC’s. She understands a lot of Spanish and she says a few Spanish words. All without the benefit of Sesame Street. It makes me sad that so many parents still believe that putting their child in front of a t.v. is better for the child’s development than just including the child in everyday life.

You see, I didn’t really do much to help Adeline learn so much. I am, when it comes down to it, kind of lazy. I make an effort to speak Spanish to her when I think of it. And I read to her a lot. But other than that, I mostly just let her play on her own and follow her lead when we play together. But I do talk to her a lot – and I talk to her like a normal person, not like a baby. And I talk to David in front of her. And my parents. And my friends. And the checkout girl at the grocery store. I include her in what I’m doing, and that is apparently all she needs to absorb and learn and blossom.

While we’re on the subject, though, can I just say that the Sesame Street characters are apparently baby crack? Despite the fact that Addie has never seen a minute of the show, she knows all the characters’ names and she LOVES Elmo. How? Because when Addie was born someone got us a set of four Sesame Street books. Just four. That is literally the only exposure she had to Sesame Street and she got addicted. Now she has more stuff because she loves Elmo so much. There is something a little creepy about how god damn appealing that little red muppet is to children.  Just saying. Creepy and incredibly profitable. No wonder they have an empire!

And now I will close this post with a confession. The conversation at the beginning of this post happened last Wednesday. Last Friday, the DirectTV guys came to hook up our t.v. For whatever reason they turned the t.v. to some kids’ channel while they were testing it. When they left, the t.v. was still on. Adeline grabbed her little chair, set it literally as close to the t.v. as possible, and sat with her face about two inches from the screen and watched an episode of Caillou. So apparently in the last month she has developed an interest in t.v. I haven’t turned it on since then, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

I have to admit, it would be damn nice to sit her in front of the t.v. when I need to cook dinner instead of taking a break every two minutes to deal with her…

How do you deal with t.v.? Do let your kids watch any time, or is there a set limit around how much t.v. they can watch? When did you introduce t.v.? What shows are decent?

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