At General Priesthood Meeting yesterday morning, the Stake President had a couple of youth speak on goals for 2009. Both emphasized that this year they would not watch television and that particular goal was praised by the leadership as exceptional and phenomenal.
As I sat listening, it struck me as funny - the thing is, my kids haven't watched programmed television in years (and yes, they are teenagers). My wife (more than I) just stopped watching TV over a decade ago, and so I followed suit (more because I was building my business and working more hours than I should have and had no time for TV). It wasn't really a set policy of "thou shall not watch television" as it was just a personal choice. And the kids followed our example without protest.
The amazing thing has been that the kids have not rebelled at all. No MTV, no American Idol, - not even David Archuletta, no Super Bowl parties (it's interesting to note that even a Stake Fireside on the Book of Mormon was cancelled for next week as it would have interfered with the Super Bowl), no sporting events (except a little bit of the Olympics this summer), no cartoons. They actually see no need for watching television and fill their time with other activities and interests. Yes, they watch lots of DVDs and my son plays video games in excess (so, no, they aren't ready to be translated to a higher, more celestial sphere) but they are completely weened off of the tube.
The one exception for watching television is General Conference when we gather as a family twice a year around the flat screen. We don't watch the news - I can't even remember the last time the family saw a newscast (no election debates, though I did watch the election results) let alone a tv series, or even a sporting event. We don't have cable (gasp!) or a dish (double gasp!)and never have! We don't even own one of those black boxes that we're supposed to get by next month when the analog signal is discontinued, and according to my wife, there is no motivation to go get one...
I'm the exception to the rule. I did watch the proceedings of the inauguration last week, and I actually admit to having watched the Utes play in the Sugar Bowl at New Years, but without family around me. When I'm on the road and crash in a hotel room, I instinctively flip on the box and get in touch with the world of cable, flipping unceasingly through the great wasteland of channels. I can see where I can be easily addicted to the remote.
My wife has bought TV shows from the past and the kids have watched them on DVDs (I love Lucy, Gilligan's Island, Father Knows Best, etc.). And my son discovered the Fox series "24" at Blockbuster and now we are paying to know Jack Bauer - (we've worked our way through Season 1 and are halfway through Season 2 - and we like them a lot!- are they all worth the time?)
Don't label us as radical or fanatical for living this way. It's really just been a personal choice of my wife's and the kids and I have gone along and now it's a habit to NOT watch television. And there never was a rule not to, nor did we ever say they couldn't - they just didn't and don't.
At times, however, I regret it. I read several blogs that discuss shows that have a homosexual theme, and I want to be part of the queerosphere in watching such things as "Prayers for Bobby" among other shows, and be more up to date. At times, I want to be part of the heartbeat of the culture around us, including the gay scene. But, for the most part,that's just me, not them - it's not that important. So, we play games. We read together. We talk.
My mother, sisters, in-laws, friends ALWAYS have the tv on, even if just for background noise. It's always there, ever present. The kids see it contantly on, and it just isn't that important.
So, what have we done here? As our kids move into adulthood and as our influence diminishes on their daily choices, it's interesting to see them showing no signs of changing. I'm the one who regrets missing out. I'm the one who feels the desire to connect with the outside world - and especially with a glimpse of things gay.
So, I know you know I'm weird, but now you know how weird our family really is. Am I really missing anything important? Is there something out there that you can't live without seeing? Have we done well or did we mess up our kids forever?