TV or No TV (Or Just Less TV?)

(This post originally ran on the Framingham Patch.)

I love good TV and when I find a show that I love, I’m all-in. Over the decades, there have been many shows I’ve truly loved: Friends, The West Wing, Ally McBeal, ER and, more recently, 24, Law & Order, Greys Anatomy, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Downton Abbey. And many more in between. In fact, I’ve loved many of these shows and their characters so much so that I follow and often tweet with them on Twitter, which makes me feel ridiculously happy. (Yes, I know these are not real people but, please, indulge me.)

Here's me chatting with the West Wing's  much revered CJ Cregg

Here’s me chatting with the West Wing’s much revered CJ Cregg

Back when I was a kid, I watched a lot of TV, like most kids do today. Saturdays, in particular, you’d find my brother, sister and I lounging around watching Noel Edmands’ Swap Shop in the morning and Doctor Who in the afternoon. And much more. Until the day that my Dad decided we watched too much and it was, in his opinion, harming our grey matter and ruining our chances of future brilliance.

He took away the TV for a whole year; locked it up in a cupboard. Twelve months later, we kids were social outcasts, unable to join in the conversations at school about whatever were the latest goings-on on the popular shows. It stunk, big time.

When Dad eventually returned the TV, much to our jubilation, watching it came with terms and conditions. Dad and demanded we sign a “TV Charter”, which listed the rules that were to govern our TV watching. I remember, in particular, one clause relating to when we were allowed to watch TV mid-week during the day. “Only if genuinely ill and in bed,” the charter stated.

Did Dad’s extreme measures make an iota of difference to the amount of TV I watch? Not one teeny bit! I’m still a TV fiend.

Fast-forward to present day. I read in emarketer that, according to Nielsen, 2- to 11- year olds average 23 hours 34 minutes per week watching “traditional” TV. That’s almost one whole day per week spent in front of the tube. (By comparison, the time kids spent online was just shy of 2 hours per week.)

Even before reading this, I was feeling concerned by the amount of TV my kids were watching, even though we were limiting it to 30 mins each evening mid-week and longer on weekend mornings. The problem wasn’t so much what they were watching but their stroppy behavior when asked to stop watching and the spiraling moods as bedtime closed in.

Three weeks ago, after displaying some particularly bad behavior, we banned the TV in the evenings for a week as punishment. The first night the kids complained vigorously. “We’re so bored,” they moaned. “There’s nothing to do.”

The second night, we discussed their options for evening entertainment before they had a chance to start complaining (they built forts.) By the third evening, there was no discussion, they headed straight for their books, crayons, and toys and played. And guess what? Bath time and bedtime were less highly-strung, more relaxed and everyone went to sleep calmer and happier.

We’ve so enjoyed the transformation that we’ve decided to make it half-permanent. No TV in the evenings Monday to Wednesday. Honestly, I don’t think the kids have even noticed. My son heads straight to his books, my daughter to her Transformers. It’s a beautiful thing.

And, best of all, I can catch up on emails, blogging—and tweeting with my imaginary TV friends!

On Shoe Envy and Insecurity

If you know me, then insecure is not the first adjective that comes to mind.

But like almost every human being, I naturally have some insecurities. I have a horror of being over-dressed. Strange though it may sound, nothing makes me want to shrink up and die more than being out of place because I am too dressed-up or decked out.

And like many people, to counter my insecurity, I take it too far in the opposite direction and prefer the security of being casually dressed. Unlike my mother who is always impeccably put together.

Consequently, I rarely wear skirts or dresses because, to me, they give the impression that you are trying to make an impression even if it’s just to go the store, or out for a meal, or to the office. (And I wonder why my daughter has an aversion to skirts and dresses … hmmm … Go figure.)

So what does his have to do with shoes, you say?

I love shoes. I obsess about shoes. I have a Pinterest board littered with exquisite examples of them. I used to spend hours as a teenager designing imaginary shoes, my school books filled with doodles.

I also detest breaking in new shoes. Blisters are one of shoes’ many way of punishing us. When I do wear any shoe with a heel more than one inch, I quickly me realize I‘m not as young as I used to be, as I always wake up the next day with my hips feeling like they are back to front, my knees tender and my back shrieking.

And yet I look around me, especially at the feet of my colleagues at work who effortlessly and beautifully sport gorgeous, stylish and dramatic heels, day in day out, with grace and style and confidence. Without grimace or clumsiness – or appearing overdressed. Or complaining of achey backs and joints.

I want to be able to do that. But I’m scared of looking like I’m trying too hard, looking like a phony or a mutton in sheep’s clothing. At the core, I’m scared of drawing unwanted attention to myself. Heaven forbid I should look womanly, a by-product of arching your feet, extending your calf muscles and having to walk with an exaggerated sway, like Joan from Mad Men.

I know this is ridiculous. So I am taking baby steps to remedy my insecurity. A large part of this is my road back to finding the woman that’s been buried under the messy morass of motherhood. She’s in their somewhere but most of the time does not have the time or energy to make an effort. Looking presentable is accommodated through safe, colorful, always comfortable clothes, plus lots of lovely jewelry and a smile. But this Mom has started taking measures to reclaim herself, including reinstating the pre-party before an evening out, ensuring she is not harried and can linger over her choice of clothes and preparations.

Last week, I took my therapy one step further. Having waiting several months, scoured though many web pages, catalogs and pins, I finally splurged on new shoes. I didn’t go all-out Jimmy Choo (the dollars don’t stretch that far!) and I didn’t select anything ridiculous or, heaven forbid, impractical. I played it safe and, don’t laugh at me, shopped at Clark’s, seeking assurance that my feet and posture were in the trusted hand of a sensible brand.

I love the shoes I bought, Even the sales assistant remarked they were the only ones that didn’t look like Clark’s. I wore them out to dinner that evening, with jeans, of course (just in case anyone was looking.)

On Monday, it came time to get dressed for a day-long business trip. Here goes, thought I. I selected a dress – a safe, black, comfortable one, already tested once for its non-attention drawing values. I strapped on the heels, walked gingerly like a new-born deer to the mirror. A leggy trollope looked back at me. You fake, she sneered. Do you think you are still 20? What are you trying to prove? My stomach lurched. Off came the heels, replaced swiftly with some safe shoes.

I kicked myself all day for not having the balls to do it.

The following two days, I made up my mind to give it another shot. Day 2, I wore the heels but under the cover of pants, a safer combination. Day 3, I took a deep breath and wore a skirt and heels.

I felt very self-conscious. And tall. I also felt powerful, confident, and dare I say, womanly.

But the funny thing was, I don’t think anyone even noticed. So maybe, just maybe, I actually fitted in more and it’s my casual wardrobe that’s doing me a disservice?

I’m not going to be found sashaying in my new heels every day, that’s for sure. You’ll still find me in my comfy, safe flats/clogs/boots. But I’m determined to strap on my heels and even a dress from time to time, and wear them with my head held high, my tummy sucked in and a subtle sway of my hips.

Maybe someone will notice? Maybe I won’t be terrified of that? After all. What’s wrong with a little attention?

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