Sunday, February 01, 2004
Watch TV, in the name of Humanity :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
With the holidays and school vacations far behind us, we now move into that dull, gray period of winter when families, feeling the pinch of "cabin fever," are on the verge of "eating each other alive."
Now that's just unconstructive. Also illegal, I think. It is perfectly natural for young children to become cranky and bored during the winter doldrums. Parents, too, may exhibit mood swings, usually during the 38th viewing of "Finding Nemo":
LITTLE LOUISE: "Swim, Nemo, swim!
MOM: "Get him, sharks! Get him!"
LITTLE LOUISE: "Waaaaaaah..."
Winter, of course, can't last forever, except in that old "Twilight Zone" episode where the Earth leaves its orbit and begins spinning away from the sun, which, by the way, I wouldn't mention to cranky, moody kids.
Actually, all that it takes to keep children active and engaged as we move over the midwinter hump is a bit of planning and some creativity. So come on, parents. Let's all put on our "fun caps"-that's the beanie with the propeller, not the one that holds two beer cans.
Let us first hear from the scientific experts in child development as together they shout in one reedy, high-pitched, nerdy voice, "Turn Off The Television!" I don't know why we pay attention. They're always shouting things like "Turn Off The Television," or "Ohhh! Call on me, teacher!" or "Ow! Cut it out, guys. That hurts!" But, for the sake of argument and to stop their whining, we'll turn off our televisions-except to check for late football scores or special bulletins about the Earth leaving its orbit and spinning away from the sun.
A child's imagination is an amazing, creative place, as is often demonstrated by their lies. Take advantage of that by channeling your kids' imagination into a fun activity, such as packing a suitcase and taking them on a pretend "trip" to a warmer climate without leaving home. Two rows of kitchen chairs become a jetliner, a bag of sand serves as a beach and Dad, who's been forced to Turn Off The Television, becomes a surly ticket agent:
MOM: "Hold onto these pieces of paper, girls. They're our boarding passes. Give them to the ticket agent wearing the gold jacket."
LITTLE LOUISE: "That's Daddy!"
LITTLE JULIE: "Hi Daddy."
TICKET AGENT: "Good day, ladies. Will you be transporting any fresh fruit or vegetables on this trip? That's prohibited, you know."
LITTLE JULIE: "What's ‘pro-bibited,' Mommy?"
TICKET AGENT: "You little girls can come aboard and take a seat. But you there, ma'am, I'll have to see a photo I.D."
MOM: (whispering) "How about instead of an I.D. I stomp on your foot?"
TICKET AGENT: "Assaulting an airline employee is a federal offense, ma'am."
LITTLE LOUISE: "Mommy, c'mon. Let's go!"
MOM: "Of course, Honey. I was just talking with the pilot."
LITTLE LOUISE: "You said he's the ticket agent."
TICKET AGENT: "I'm the pilot, too. The airline's suffered a lot of cutbacks."
LITTLE LOUISE: "Mommy?"
MOM: "Later, dear."
PILOT: "Welcome aboard flight 778 flying nonstop to Miami. Unfortunately there will be no in-flight movie because the FAA has required us to Turn Off The Television."
LITTLE LOUISE: "Waaaaaah!"
Leaving this family to face an evening of tense awkwardness, let us move from the realm of the Imagination to that equally valuable boredom-buster known as a Lack of Imagination. Lack of Imagination is why Humanity gets its household chores done instead of working to achieve world peace. I mean, there's Humanity just hanging around the house kind of bored, and it thinks: "Yuh know, I really ought to figure out how to unite myself in a Golden Age of Prosperity. Well, maybe instead I'll go refill the toilet paper rollers. Yeah, that'll be fun!"
This explains how our kids can chase away their winter blahs by helping us accomplish household chores, such as removing the toothpicks that my young son Russell jammed into the keyhole of the bathroom doorknob.
RUSSELL: "What're you doing, Daddy?"
DAVE: "Creating a Golden Age of Prosperity, son."
RUSSELL: "Mommy said I should help you."
DAVE: "I thought you and your mother were flying to Florida again today."
RUSSELL: "She says we can't, 'cause it's the off
season. C'n I use your power tools?"
DAVE: "No, son, but you can hand me that Phillips screwdriver."
RUSSELL: "Like Phillip Levinson?"
DAVE: "What? Who?"
RUSSELL: "Phillip Levinson at my school. It's his screwdriver?"
DAVE: "No, Russ. That's just the name of the screwdriver."
RUSSELL: "Do all your tools have names? Who's he?"
DAVE: "He's just a hammer and I don't know his name. I'm not even sure he's a boy. Look, son, I really think you should go to Florida."
RUSSELL: "It's the off season."
DAVE: "Why don't you watch TV until I'm done?"
RUSSELL: "Mommy said we're 'upposed to Turn Off The Television."
DAVE: "Tell you what. I'm giving you special permission to watch television and if Mommy asks why, you tell her it was for the sake of Humanity!"
Dave Jaffe lives with his wife, two teenage sons and two dogs. Reach him at email@example.com.