A couple of years ago when pregnant with my daughter, I turned to the TV for my then 16-month-old. I had hyperemisis, I was too sick to leave the couch and my spew bucket and I needed a babysitter to help day in day out. It wasn’t ideal but it was the only solution I had for entertainment for my son at the time. He was entranced, occupied, he loved it and it got us through a trying time relatively unscathed.
When my daughter came along, I was left with a newborn and a toddler. My daughter was a demanding baby who required lots of attention and a million breastfeeds a day. If she wasn’t physically attached to my boob she was being hysterical over wanting something else. These days we call her ‘spirited’. Other words that could be used with equal truth are crazy, bossy, a little psychotic, a princess.
Enter the TV.
A way to keep my toddler entertained while looking after the baby. He looked after himself looking at a screen. He was fed and clean and loved dearly but the TV had become his entertainment. It was his books, his play, his safety blanket. Often he would play alongside the TV, but it was always in the background making sure he never had the chance to be bored.
The TV had become so much a part of his life he didn’t know how to function without it. When his obsessive behaviours started becoming more apparent, they were instantly noticed with the TV. He requested shows and would watch the same one for hours on end. Meltdowns would happen if the correct show or part of the show wasn’t picked which is a challenge in itself given he has a speech delay. His autism traits became louder and more worrying when the TV was on.
I, of course, didn’t see this. As much as the TV had become part of Jack’s normal life it had become part of mine. It was our routine to get up and turn on the TV and it had been what I knew. He would freak out if the TV was off and I felt overwhelmed with the challenges around his day to day life, to leave the TV off seemed impossible.