perfect parentsI ran into a friend on the street a couple weeks ago.  She was strolling her toddler, and he was wearing a bright red Elmo cap.  When my son saw it, he started to chuckle.

He loves Elmo, I said.  It’s his favorite part of “Sesame Street.”

You let your child watch TV? She replied.  My son has never seen TV.  He doesn’t know who Elmo is.  He just likes the hat.  You know, it’s really bad for kids under the age of two to watch ANY TV at all.  It causes autism.

Um, what?  Was she seriously implying that because my kid watches an hour of Sesame Street in the morning, he would somehow become autistic?  Yes, she was.

I had ideas about the type of parent I would be before I actually had a child.  We all do.  I was definitely in the children should never watch TV oh my god what lazy parenting camp.  Now – not so much.

Sesame Street comes on at  seven a.m.  This happens to be about a half hour after my son wakes up, and right around the time my pot of coffee is finished brewing.  Do you know those things you like to do in the morning – drinking coffee, checking your email, and reading the news?  It turns out that after you have a child, you still want to participate in this morning ritual.  Can you imagine?

To me, this programming situation is win-win.  My son is entertained for an hour looking at numbers and letters, and I am drinking my coffee in peace, answering emails and writing.  I’m sure that some people will judge me for this, but go ahead.  I’m just being honest.  I’m pretty sure that I am not the only mother who allows her toddler be entertained by Elmo.  Before I welcome the guilt-tripping landslide of negative feedback that I might get by admitting this, let me be very clear.  He gets Sesame Street in the morning, and a half hour of Pocoyo when it comes on at three p.m.  That is all.   He dances around and laughs and loves it.

Now, back to the friend that felt it was necessary and appropriate to imply that I was damaging my child by doing this.  She has full-time daycare.  She also has a maid.  So yes, her comments pissed me off.  She has no idea what it is like to need that hour and a half desperately.   If I had full-time childcare, I would be in her camp, too.  I’m not going to pay someone to entertain my child with TV.  But guess what, to those of us who don’t have the money for help – sometimes the TV is the help.  Horror of horrors!  It happens.