I Finally Made My Children Turn the TV Off. I’m So Glad I Did.

Have you ever been watching a nice family friendly show with your kids and then a super-grown commercial for something like Scandal comes on? In addition to diving for the remove, you’re wondering, “Why is this even on during Free Willy?!” That’s the type of day I was having when I decided to do a 30-day no-TV challenge. I was sick of the curse words, sick of the sex slipped into everything, sick of depressing, “We only talk about death and mayhem” news, sick of kids shows that aren’t kid appropriate. So I said, “Enough.”

Why I did it

Up to that point, I had gotten pretty lax in my TV stance. I had always planned to raise my children with minimal TV, but as a stay-at-home mom who was constantly surrounded by two demanding children, I began to rely more and more on TV just to get a break. I didn’t want to do it, but I needed something to get them out of my face! So, I let them watch a show here, a show there… and then another show here, and another show there… and then three shows back to back here, and four shows back to back there. And even though they were always children’s shows (allegedly), I was constantly bothered by the themes. I mean, who said THIS is children’s content? It’s practically one step down from Young and the Restless.

Before reaching my breaking point, there were many times where I wanted to cut back on TV, but I always thought, “But then that would be more work for ME! I’d have to entertain them every second of every day.” That thought alone is stressful, so I shoved it aside and went back to whatever I was doing. But you can only ignore things for so long. Sooner or later, you’ve got to face what’s there. For me, that meant making a commitment to watch no TV for 30 days straight.

Off to a rough start

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to get the children on board. I just told them they could have a party if they went a whole month without TV. Notice I started with the reward first. They agreed instantly. But early the next day, my 3-year-old jumped up and wanted to watch TV. I told him, “No-TV challenge, remember?” He wasn’t having it. He started crying.

At that moment, I had to reassess my decision. “Are you ready for this?” I asked myself. I could have canceled the whole thing and avoided a meltdown, but I had avoided it long enough. I had to do what I had to do. I distracted him by talking about the party he’d get at the end of the month. “So what kind of pizza do you want at your party? Who do you want to invite?” I started naming cousins. It worked, but sure enough, he was back at it a few hours later. My daughter was doing just fine, but I could tell it was going to be a struggle with him. For the first few days, I wanted to give up every other hour. It was real work getting him to forget about TV and even consider doing something that didn’t involve staring at a screen.

Amazing things started happening 

After the first few days, Son mellowed and accepted that we wouldn’t be watching TV. That’s when it started to happen: the peace, the creativity. They seemed like totally different children! You probably think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I wish you could have seen the transformation for yourself.  I’m used to them fighting a lot, but without the TV, they were calm and loving. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve all heard of the studies that suggest watching violent scenes on TV encourages children to be violent, but my kids never watched that sort of thing. So why were they so easily agitated when the TV was on and so relaxed without it? I now know the answer: stimulation. TV provides constant, fast-paced stimulation that makes it easier for children to be in an irritated state. With the TV off, they were relaxed enough to NOT get upset every time something happened. And not only were they not fighting, but they were working together and saying things like, “We’re a team!” It was truly amazing to witness. I’m not to only one to get these types of results. 

Once I noticed the difference, I kicked myself for not doing this early. Just days ago, they were whiny TV Zombies on the verge of WW III, and now they are calm children who do puzzles, make up stories, and create all types of fun projects with things they find around the house. Just yesterday, they used some old boxes to make a train. They tied the boxes together with a plastic bag. Genius!

The kids had a blast with the train the built.
The kids had a blast with the  cardboard train they built.

I originally thought I’d have to do more work (and I do), but its not at all like I’d imagined. I do spend more time reading to them, making up stories with them, and helping them think of things to do, but they do a pretty good job of entertaining themselves without my constant input. And their play is so imaginative! They make up colorful stories to go along with their activities. It’s truly amazing considering they used to just say, “I’m bored,” whenever I made them turn the TV off.

hey completed their 30 days a while ago, so we’ve added TV back in, sparingly. Thankfully, they don’t ask to watch much anymore, and I don’t mind it in moderation. But they know there won’t be anymore back to back episodes of anything.

Of all the changes I’ve observed, the biggest has been the change in me. I’m not sure how this is going to sound, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I like my kids way more when they aren’t watching a lot of TV. Does that sound bad? Does it sound like I didn’t like my kids before? Well, I won’t front: Sometimes I didn’t like them suckers! As much as I love them, my like was a little shaky at times. It’s hard to like your children when they’re fighting all day and crying about EVERY SINGLE THING. But once I cut the TV off, it all changed. Their entire disposition became much more pleasant. Before, I constantly thought about boxing them up and shipping them off to Anytown, USA. Now, I’m totally okay with keeping them.

Would you ever consider a no-TV challenge? If you’ve already done one, how did it go?

~Nadirah Angail

 

I’m Trying, But I Just Can’t Get with Princess Culture

You know, I’m just trying to live my life. Under no circumstances do I want to be that parent who has a problem with everything, buuuuuuuuut I kinda have a problem with everything. Ok, not everything, but a lot. Case in point: princess culture. I’m fine with frilly dresses and the like, but my daughter is not some doll whose purpose is to be dressed and paraded around to someone else’s liking. She won’t be anybody’s sexy damsel in distress, and she won’t be anybody’s eye candy whose hair and makeup are fixed just so–at the expense of her mind and soul. Nope. Can’t do it.

Maybe it sounds like a big leap from tutus and tiaras to mindless, objectified shell, but my eyes are open. I see how even cartoon characters are drawn to be seductive. I see adult-ish children’s shows whose 12- and 13-year-old female characters look straight out of New York Fashion Week. I see how young girls are often steered toward things related specifically and exclusively to appearance. Is it wrong to want to look good? No. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if my daughter wore pink and purple glitter and sequined shoes 24/7, but what she’s not gon’ do is think that’s all there is to life, all there is to her. So, when she’s done accessorizing, done putting on her sixth coat of crackle nail polish, she’s going to read and think and pray and create.

Little Mermaid's Ariel rises from the water.
Little Mermaid’s Ariel rises from the water.

Princess culture and boys

I’ve done a lot of talking about my daughter, but boys are affected to0. In fact, I’d argue the affect is worse on boys because, while girls are being taught to treat themselves poorly, boys are being taught to treat girls poorly. What happens when little boys watch movie after movie and TV show after TV show about pretty girls looking for handsome boys to fix their lives and love them? What happens when they see girls caring only about looking good and getting a date? What happens when they are covertly and overtly taught to be sexist? The message then becomes, “Girls are here for fun and folly.”  I can’t let that type of message go unchecked in my home.

My son is 3, but he’ll be in school soon enough, surrounded by other boys who may or may not have been socialized in a way I agree with. And if I were a betting woman, my money would be on their not being socialized to value girls wholly. I say this because I’ve been a kid before; I remember the things boys said and did to girls back then. I also hear the things boys in my neighborhood say and do to girls now. Not much has changed.

Schools are notorious breeding grounds for sexual harassment–everything from 5-year-old boys engaging in butt-pinching behavior, which they probably don’t even understand yet, to high school boys committing rape on (and off) school grounds. Sadly, its not uncommon for boys to think girls are just for looking and touching. These messages start young.

It’s not just about princesses 

I wish princess culture was the only issue. If so, it would be relatively easy to combat . Most girls are over princesses by their tween years. Problem solved, except it doesn’t end there. By about age twelve, princess culture is most often replaced by airbrush culture and “I’m nothing if I’m not sexy” culture and “I’ll only eat every other day so I can be waif thin” culture. This idea, that women are but a collection of poseable parts, is so pervasive and inbred that many refuse to acknowledge it. Instead, they break the internet by getting bucket naked in a “tasteful” photo shoot. Instead, they make Instagram porn and wait for the likes to roll in because, you know, it’s artistic. Instead, they Jedi mind trick you into believing it is an empowering form of feminism.

Clearly, Yoda's been reading  Malcolm X's autobiography.
Clearly, Yoda’s been reading Malcolm X’s autobiography.

Action steps and solutions

So, what’s an aware mother to do? Me, myself, I just lock my kids in the closet and only let them out for 30 mins a day to watch a pre-screened episode of Arthur. But you probably aren’t as hardcore as me. Here are some more-politically correct options for anyone else who just isn’t feeling princess culture.

  • Create your own narrative- Since my daughter loves princesses, I just go with it. I wouldn’t dare try to fight it. But I tell her being a princess is not about being cute and dainty. It’s about being confident, strong, and kind to others.  Disney is aware of the backlash, so they’ve created a string of commercials like this one to cast princesses in a different light. I can dig it.
  • Find the good- I have little use for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella (even though I love the music in the Brandy and Whitney version), but I love Mulan,  Merida (from Brave). and Tiana (from Princess and the Frog). They are all strong, take-charge, capable characters. I have no problem with my daughter wanting to be like them.
  • Point out messages that counter yours- If the kids are watching a show that rubs me the wrong way, I’ll tell them. Even if I turn it off, the message has already been delivered. I can’t just let it seep into their subconscious. I have to highlight it and mark it as wrong, invalid. So, if we’ve been watching a show for 10 minutes and all they’ve talked about is boyfriends and girlfriends and how so-and-so is devastated because she doesn’t have a date to the 5th grade dance, I’ll say something like, “Guys, I’d rather find another show because this one keeps talking about having a boyfriend/girlfriend, which shouldn’t be a focus in 5th grade.” My kids know their mother, so they rarely protest.
  • Find something to say yes to- When you’re a socially aware parent, you find yourself having to say no to a lot of things. That’s no fun for the child, and it makes them more likely to want to sneak and do it anyway. Instead of saying no all the time, I’ll offer up an alternative. “No, we can’t watch that show. I don’t think there is anything on there that would benefit you, but you can…”
  • Show your daughters how capable they are- When things break around the house, I don’t call maintenance or the hubs, I call the kids. I bust out the screw drivers and YouTube how-to vids and get to work, letting my daughter take the lead whenever possible. We’re not always successful, but I still think there is value in making an effort.

I want balance in all things, so I’m not anti-princess. But I know anything that goes under the radar cannot be examined. That’s risky, too risky. I want my kids to learn how to decipher and discard messages that won’t add to their development. This is just one thing they’ll have to deal with. I know there are many more. I want need them to be ready.

That said, if my daughter wants a princess-themed party, she can have it. If she wants to see a princess movie, she can watch it… if I one day decided to let them out of the closet for more than 30 minutes.

~Nadirah Angail

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On Your Stuff: Saving Your Marriage From Your Emotional Issues Pt. 2

This is part 2 of a 2-part feature on emotional issues. These articles are meant to be a stepping stone to healing, but are by no means a cure-all. It is best to seek professional help to guide you on your journey.

In the first installment, we talked in general terms about becoming aware of emotional issues/themes and how they can negatively affect our thoughts and behaviors. Now it’s time to put a face and name on those themes.

A theme is a unifying or dominant idea, an overarching concept that connects and defines items in a group. In this case, the group is comprised of life events, specifically those that have greatly impacted you and shaped your worldview.

There is no finite list of emotional themes, but there are certain ones that show up frequently. Let’s examine them, shall we?

Common Emotional Themes

  • Abandonment: Perhaps the most popular of all emotional themes, abandonment is the feeling of being unfairly left behind or discarded. This theme could be rooted in a physical abandonment (someone leaving), but it can also refer to perceived abandonment that may have nothing to do with physical absence. If this is one of your primary themes, you may find that you rush into relationships or expect too much too fast (or just too much in general), which, in turn, may run the person off. Your feeling of abandonment is then itensified and the cycle continues.
  • Loss: Loss may seem very similar to abandonment, but the main difference is that loss isn’t intentional. It involves someone or something
  • Over Responsibility
  • Inferiority
  • Violation

~Nadirah Angail

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Are You Comfortable Being Unhappy in Your Marriage?

comfortable being unhappyLet’s be real: sometimes, you just want to be mad.

You just want to sit up in your funk and wallow. You ain’t thinking about working it out;  you don’t want to give it another try; you don’t even want to hear a apology. You’re just hot. And you know what, you kinda like it.

Come on, admit it. (Nobody’s looking and you know I won’t tell.) Just admit how it sometimes feels good to stew in your anger. I can admit it, but I’m still wondering why. What makes a person want to stay angry? What’s up with that? Ego: that’s what’s up. Our egos get a couple hundred strokes every time we have a pity party. We tell ourselves grand stories about how we’ve been wronged and why we have the right to be mad, the right to wear a scowl, the right to make every cell vibrate with negative, weakening energy.  Sure, its your right, but is that really what you want?

Nope.

I went ahead and answered that for you because I already know the deal: It’s not that you want to be unhappy. It’s that you’re comfortable there and scared of the unknown.

Change is hard… and scary

If I had a dime for every time I tried to permanently change something about myself and failed, I’ll have a lot of money. Change is easy to want and hard to implement. It takes planning and determination. It takes a willingness to go at it again, and again, and again, and again. But, most importantly, it takes a deliberate and forceful silencing of the inner voices.

Those voices, man… I could write an entire post about destructive inner voices (and I probably will at some point). They’re just so convincing. I mean, they will really have you listening to them, as if their words are finite and final, as if they aren’t hollow, made of flimsy doubt and fear.

It’s those voices that make you comfortable. They tell you nothing will ever change, and you believe them. They tell you your marriage has run its course, and you believe them. They tell you happiness exists only outside your relationship and you will never achieve it from within, and you believe them. So why bother? Sure, you’ll be cordial and go through the motions, but real effort? Why bother?

And this is the thinking that traps and binds.

You do as little as possible just to get by. You make small gestures in the name of “starting over,” but you don’t really believe, and so you don’t really try.  After all, why beat a dead horse? Why support a dying cause? Your energy would be much better spent on something that could actually make you happy, wouldn’t it?

And that’s the scary part: the idea that you could genuinely put forth real effort and still not be happy, still not accomplish anything, still feel rejected, still feel alone. Feeling like a failure when you’ve given up is doable, but having that same feeling when you’ve poured yourself into something wholeheartedly, that seems unbearable.  And so we dampen our efforts and get comfortable in the dark, too scared to travel into the blinding light of the uncertain.  We settle down in our misery and become martyrs to fear–as if there were no other choice.

Abandon your life of fear and LIVE

But alas, there are choices! If only we’d open our eyes and allow ourselves to see them. How many other scary things have you faced and conquered? Maybe it was a scary movie at 8, or a roller coaster at 12, or the driving exam at 16, or a job interview at 21 or the decision to enliven your marriage that you’re facing right now.  Because that’s really what it is: the decision to add life back into your marriage. Yes, it is risky–your spouse may not receive your efforts–but to stay where you are would be a disservice to yourself, your children (if you have any), and the commitment you made before God.

When you allow yourself to live in anger, the whole family suffers. Sure, the marriage takes a hit, but you, on an individual level, take a major blow as well. And of course that trickles down to the kids. Of course that trickles down to your parents, your siblings, your friends and co-workers. Everyone in your intimate circle feels the aftershock of your choice.

Your own body will rise up in protest because of the disharmony you created. (Read: headaches, physical illness, anxiety, etc.) Yes, I said, “you created.” You’ve got to own it. If anything is to change (and I hope by now you’ve decided it should), you have to take ownership. This isn’t about absolving your spouse of any blame. It is about acknowledging that you were powerful enough to take part in this undoing, and so have the power to mend and rebuild.

This is your life. Yours. No one else can experience it for you, so let NO one and NO thing force you into decisions you’ll regret. And this whole “put my marriage on auto pilot” thing you got going, you will regret that. Of this, I am certain.

If you’re ready to leave your comfort zone and try something that can get you moving in the right direction, take the 365 Marriage Oath.

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The Problem With Having a Love of Your Life

love of my lifeYears ago, I heard comedian Steve Harvey talking about how women often use the phrase “love of my life” to refer to men who in no way deserve the title. I completely agree, so much so that his words stuck with me all these years and inspired this post. In general, there is nothing wrong with having a “love of your life,” but you have to be careful with whom you allow to fill that space.

“But you can’t choose the love of your life. It just happens.” That’s what you were thinking, weren’t you? This is how we’ve been conditioned, to be passive participants in our heart’s affairs, to be mere spectators that can only watch, not do. It is true that you can feel more connected to one person than you do others, but that isn’t a good enough reason for you to stay connected to a man who doesn’t deserve you. “Love of my life” is a term we choose to apply to someone.  And too often, we choose to apply it to those with whom we have had the most turbulent and unhealthy relationships.

“Girl, I know he’s no good for me, but he’s the love of my life… I always go back.”

“I would leave, but he’s the love of my life. You know how that goes…”

“This is crazy! I can’t get over him! He’s the love of my life.”

You’ve probably heard (or spoken) these phrases before. It seems “love of my life” has become synonymous with “the person I allow to continually hurt me.” It doesn’t matter how many years you have invested, how intertwined you feel your hearts have become, or how drop-dead gorgeous he may be. If he has proven, time and time again, that he is NOT able to treat you how you want to be treated and NOT able to provide you with the mental and emotional stimulation you need, he has no business being called the love of your life (or any other term of endearment you can think of). It really is that simple.

We make it complicated when we listen to the damaged parts of ourselves that have somehow become addicted to the diseased dynamics of these relationships. “Yes, he cheats on me, but we have such a strong connection.” “True, he’s not really what I want in a husband, but it’s been 5 years and I really love him.” In the words of Tina Turner, what’s love got to do with it? We have an obligation to ourselves to be the best person possible and to surround ourselves with others who will help us in that pursuit. A good man will do that.

Unfortunately, a lot of the men we call the “loves of our lives” aren’t doing that. In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite. They sidetrack and discourage us from reaching our better selves by occupying our time and thoughts with all sorts of *pauses to think of a fitting word* foolishness.

The love of your life should be the person who has had the best affect on you, the person that helped you reach a new level of understanding and happiness, the person   who has been a true asset in your life. Don’t use the term as an excuse to go back to a loser. Don’t let it be the nail in the coffin that seals your fate as an unhappy woman.

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To Married Men, From Wives Everywhere: An Open Letter about Housework

to husbands everwhereDisclaimer: I am aware of (and thankful for) the fact that this doesn’t apply to all men.

Dear Husbands,

Hey, how’s it going? It’s us, your wives. We need some help throwing something away. We’ve been trying to do it on our own, but it hasn’t been working. But first, let us just say, we’re women and we’re sensitive about our ish (in a Erykah Badu voice), so don’t receive this as attacking or bashing. We know you can’t see us, but there is no finger wagging or neck rolling. Scout’s honor.

Now, like we were saying, we need some help discarding something. What is it, you ask? Well, it’s kind of hard to put into words. I guess you could call it… expectations? Yea, that sounds about right. We’ll go with it. We need some help discarding the overwhelming expectations that have been put on us.

Many of us have jobs just like you, and those of us who don’t still have the responsibility of maintaining the home and kids. (That may sound simple, but I assure you it is NOT.) It’s a lot: cooking dinner, vacuuming rugs, brushing teeth, giving baths, cleaning bathroom, helping with homework, changing diapers, combing hair, washing clothes, pulling gum out of hair. *Sigh* It’s a lot.

We totally get that society, culture, and family history have told you it’s not your job, that’s it’s “women’s work,” but we’re too weighed down to agree. We NEED your help. Around the house and with the kids, we NEED your help. And we don’t need it in a patronizing way (i.e, “What? I took the chicken out of the freezer”). We need you to see it as your responsibility. If the kids need a bath, don’t point out to us that the kids are a little ripe. Just give them a bath. If there is a mountain of laundry that needs to be washed, don’t point out to us that you’re on your last pair of undies. Just wash the clothes.  Things need to be done in our house, so we should do it–together, as a team.

And, hey, where did that come from anyway, the idea that all things domestic and parenting related are women’s work? To be sure, there are 2 things that should be considered women’s work: birthing babies, and breastfeeding. We would never in a million years ask you to do those things, but everything else is up for negotiation. At least it should be, because here’s the thing: We really, really love you. Like, a whole lot. We love to be around you, to talk to you, to smell you, to be in your arms, to experience your peace, but it’s hard to do that when we have so much on us. It’s hard to be as loving as we should and as nice as we should when we’re drowning in a sea of housework and children.

Maybe we just haven’t asked. That’s a real possibility for some of us. We may have expected you to read our minds or expected you to simply know. Or we may have watched our mothers do everything and just felt too guilty, too inadequate, to ask for help. And maybe you watched your dad pay the bills and leave everything else to your mom. Maybe you watched how your uncles and older brothers and friends’ fathers did nothing in the way of housework. It’s not your fault. It’s not our fault. We were born into it.

But we’re grown now, with lives of our own and houses and kids to match. We have to do something differently. This right here is not working. Women are certifiably depressed over this. That could be one of our daughters one day, one of our nieces, cousins, or students. That could be one of our sons one day, unaware of the burdens their wives face. Yes, I know change is hard and it’s not always convenient, but it’s necessary–for us, your wives, and the future generations who nee to experience something different.

With nothing but sincerity,

Your Wives

P.S. Don’t be mad. You still sexy though.

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The Danger of Comparing Spouses

dont compare spousesI bet my husband is better than yours. No need to get offended. I bet yours is better than mine, too. That’s just how it works. Every husband (and wife) comes with a list of pros and cons. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no getting around it either. It’s the nature of human beings. It also seems to be pretty natural for us to compare our spouses to the spouses of others. Bad idea. More often than not, we only think to compare when we see someone else doing something our mates do not do. If someone else’s husband delivered “just because” flowers to the job, you’re reminded of how you haven’t received flowers in ages. If someone else’s wife hits the gym regularly, you’re reminded of how your wife, well, doesn’t.

Focusing on all the things your spouse doesn’t do can cause you to downplay the many things they do do. Your husband may not be the best at gift giving, but maybe he knows how to make you laugh and  is a great listener. Your wife may not be a size 4, but maybe she is kind, thoughtful, and very supportive. Assuming you didn’t marry  a complete grouch, your spouse should have a substantial “pro” list. Don’t forget that. Getting caught up in what you assume is going on in other people’s relationships will only create problems in yours. If you have a problem with your mate, by all means, address it, but don’t let what you THINK is going on in someone else’s relationship affect how you view your own.

Most of the time, we don’t even know the full details of what is going on in others’ relationships. We get bits and pieces from the source and then let our imaginations fill in the rest. You never know, maybe the frequent “just because” flowers are really “sorry I slapped you last night” flowers. And maybe the  size 4 wife works out so much because it’s her only escape from all the tension in her home. Or maybe they’re really all as happy as the Cosbys. (Now, that’s happy.) Either way, it doesn’t matter. What’s happening with other couples has nothing to do with what’s happening with you. Everyone’s situation is unique, their set of circumstances different. What should matter to you is the fact that you’ve married a good person that you feel safe with and can trust. It’s hard to find the person that is just the right fit for you. If you’ve found that, don’t ruin it by comparing him/her to what may be a skewed perception of someone else.

Also, keep in mind that your “con” list isn’t empty either, bucko. All the time you spend focusing on your spouses flaws could be better spent getting yourself together.  I think a lot of divorces come from a fixation on the other. Before marriage, we’re constantly trying to improve ourselves to make the other happy. After marriage though, we flip the script. We start to focus on what try need to be doing to make us happier. Nothing wrong with expecting your spouse to want you to be happy, but it seems we forget (or perhaps never learned) that the best way to find happiness is to seek it out for yourself rather than expecting others to bring it to you. Have  a talk with your spouse, not about your issues with him, but about your issues with yourself. Tell them what you think you should work on most and how you think working on that problem can positively affect your marriage. Invite your spouse to do the same. They will surely appreciate the change of focus and be inspired by your willingness to be more introspective. If nothing else, they’ll love to hear you admit that you’re not perfect. Spouses need to hear that sometimes. We all do.

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