Family Wise, or How Watching the Right TV Is Bringing Us Together

Amazing-Race-PhilUNLIKE THE HOUSEHOLD in which I grew up, we’re not a watch-TV-every-night kind of family. When it is on, we try to make our viewing a communal activity. Although it’s tempting to let the girls zone out in front of Nickelodeon or Disney Channel while we attack our respective to-do lists, J. and I are cognizant of the fact that our jobs keep us from parenting as actively as we’d like. Relegating the TV to babysitter status is not something we’re keen on.

The challenge is to find programming that engages all of us. The violence of dramas is a turn-off; the coarseness of sitcoms is something I’d like to avoid introducing the girls to for as long as possible. (I say this not as much disapprovingly — culture evolves, and it’s up to us parents to monitor what our kids consume and act accordingly — as with regret. I watched Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley with my parents and saw nothing more risque than Fonzie strolling through Arnold’s with a couple of hot blondes on his arm.)

Of all things, reality competitions have become our family go-to. Top Chef, MasterChef Junior, and The Amazing Race have caught our collective eye and given us places to see, things to learn, activities to ponder, and people to root for.  About the only content to worry about from a parenting perspective is salty language, which gets bleeped, so no harm, no foul.

Best of all, we talk about what we’re seeing and hearing, evaluating strategies, pointing out contestants’ strengths and weaknesses, and sharing what each of us might have done differently in a particular situation. These shows have become a shared experience, and as working parents, J. and I find that invaluable.

So bring on the Quickfire Challenges, the mystery boxes, and the Roadblocks. We’ll be watching — together. | DL

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