At the end of the day once the baby is asleep and big kid bedtime hasn’t quite arrived, I’m wiped, which means my daughter gets to watch a little TV. (Depending where you fall on the parenting spectrum, this either makes me a monster or your soul sister.)
My daughter’s recent shows of choice? “Doc McStuffins” (I’m feeling you, Ron Swanson) and “The Incredible Dr. Pol.” Far from rotting her sweet little brain, they’ve instead been…thoroughly enriching? Her comfort with the graphic veterinary procedures shown on “Dr. Pol” (always watched with a grown-up by her side) meant she was game when I suggested mounting a dead moth we’d found on a toothpick for “examination.” The kid doesn’t spook at the sight of an owie, or even blood; she’s riveted.
Watching these shows has also unveiled some surprising competencies. My daughter’s Doc McStuffins doctor kit taught her to say (and use) an “Otoscope.” When toys need new batteries, just like Doc McStuffins she evaluates what’s wrong and (supervised) uses a grown-up, non-toy screwdriver to replace batteries. When I’ve asked why she likes these particular shows, her response is “Because they help people.” I mean…
Takeout dinner (the other cornerstone of exhausted parenting) has also proven itself not to be the monster I’d feared. Because I’ve followed through with my commitment to home cooked meal planning, the contents of the white paper takeout cartons I brought home last night were suddenly exotic. “What IS this food?” my daughter exclaimed as she dug into a plateful of rice noodles and grilled pork. What followed was a conversation about Vietnam, the difference between countries and continents, and where we might identify them on the globe in her bedroom. Once confirming that they sell dolls in Asia (a crucial detail), my daughter declared that she would like to “fly to Asia, eat noodles and buy a pink baby doll.”
This is not an ode to my being a “bad mom.” (I’ve grown weary of those thinly-veiled humble brags. “I’m suuuuuch a bad mom because my little darling has a regular bedtime!”) Instead, it’s a liberation: as long as you’re being a thoughtful, engaged parent, it does’t really matter what you do with your children. So cut yourself some slack: put Postmates on dinner duty and pop on a “Wild Kratts” episode. Your kid isn’t just going to be “just fine” if she watches a little TV or eats the occasional pad thai dinner; she’s going to be great.