Family life

Our low-TV summer

Did Tracy convince her family to cut the (cable) cord?

By Tracy Chappell
Our low-TV summer

I didn't really do this to my TV - I'm not that hardcore. But vlauria did! (Photo by vlauria via Flickr).

Compromise is key in any healthy relationship, right?
As it turns out, my grand “No-TV summer” plans didn’t go over quite the way I hoped.
Just to recap, our main-floor TV went kaput two weeks ago, which sparked an idea in me to just cancel our cable and have a no-TV summer. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and this gave us the perfect opportunity. That’s how I saw it, anyway. Full disclosure: We do have a small TV in our bedroom (I know experts claim that it will destroy our relationship, but so far, it works for us), so we haven’t been completely TV-free. The girls will ask to go up there to watch something and I’m happy to let them. It actually works out better for me — when they watched TV in the living room, it was always “Mom, can we have a snack?” or “Mom, come watch this!” or “Mom, can you sit with us?” or “Mom, Avery’s touching me!” When they’re upstairs, they don’t make a peep and I really get stuff done.
But really, they want to be on the main floor where we are, and after the past two weeks without TV down here, I’ve noticed that they’re gravitating more quickly to floor play, drawing and colouring on the dining room table, and going outside. This is what I was hoping would happen. But would it last?
After talking about it a few times, Sean said he was OK with cancelling cable for the summer to see how it went. I was thrilled. Now to break it to the girls, because upstairs-only TV is a lot different than no TV (we weren’t sure how many channels we’d get without cable). We had a family meeting and at the end, decided to break the news and explain this decision. At first they just seemed confused (try explaining the whole TV-cable configuration to kids). When reality sunk in, Anna was devastated and cried herself to sleep at the thought of never again watching TVO, which I admit is a pretty awesome station. “But how will I learn experiments now?” she sobbed. “This is the worst thing you could ever do to me! Why would you do something that will make me so unhappy?” (Something tells me this isn’t the last time I’ll hear this.) We let her rage, knowing that she’d just have to get over it. We explained to them that we’d bring the VCR upstairs and if they wanted to watch a DVD sometimes, they could.
So Sean called our cable company the next day to seal the deal. I didn’t bring it up until after the kids went to bed, then asked him if it was done. “Just hear me out on this,” he began. (I knew he was only pretending to be on board!) “Is the goal here to get rid of the channels, or to save money?”
“What deal did they make you?” I asked.
You know how when you call the cable company to cancel anything, it’s suddenly a smooth Casanova who knows exactly how to turn you on? That. What they offered, if we were to just switch down to basic cable (we have our home phone and Internet with them too) cut our bill in half. In half! With the “special discounts” we were offered, keeping the basic cable is going to only cost us $10 more on our bill than if we cut it. And it costs $50 to get it back if we cut it completely. Grrrrr …
Basic cable has plenty of channels, so it wouldn’t make any difference at all to our TV watching. What was the point? I had to think of something else to salvage the — er, my — momentum. So in the end, I compromised. I caved on keeping cable, but we agreed that when our TV was fixed, it would go into the basement without cable (I wanted to hide it away, but we didn’t have any place to do that). I think not having TV on the main floor of our house is going to be the move that makes the difference I’m looking for.
And I don’t just mean for the kids. I admit, I’ve been missing our living room TV. I mostly miss it as background when I’m doing something like sorting mail or folding laundry or blogging (though if it were prime TV season, I'd be desperate for The Good Wife, Smash and Surivivor!). After the kids go to bed, it is nice to just flop down and watch a show, but this is the point, right? I’ll do something else. A friend mentioned to me that it’s perfectly fine to sit down and watch TV at the end of a long day and she worried that we’d spend all our time working instead, so I want to be conscious of that. I don’t want to fall back to workaholism. We’ve cured ourselves of that.
So our no-TV summer has turned into a low-TV summer, but I’m OK with that. Now, it’s time to reacquaint myself with my husband! 

Tell me: Beyond TV and computer time and, you know, conversation, what kinds of things do you and your partner do in the evenings? And what shows would you miss most if you pulled the plug on cable?

Photo by vlauria via Flickr.

This article was originally published on Jun 06, 2012

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