Growing up without the tube

Posted: Sunday, August 09, 2009

"You got chocolate in my peanut butter." "Well you got peanut butter on my chocolate." Recognize those lines? How about this one: "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't." I don't know if those commercials are still running these days, but I'm guessing that anyone of a certain age would immediately think of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars - not my kids though.

My kids just hate it when I quote TV commercials, especially if I try to sing them. For them, it underscores the biggest deprivation in their lives, which is deliberately perpetrated upon them by their parents. We are raising our children without TV.

Don't get me wrong, we do have a TV. The kids watch movies all the time, over and over until their eyes bug out. We just don't have cable, so we don't get any channels. Subsequently, little snippets of popular culture are absent from my kids' experience. They don't watch Hannah Montana or PBS Kids. I don't even know what kids watch on TV these days. And they don't get to see any commercials. They won't have any jingles to sing to their own kids twenty years from now. Life can be so cruel sometimes.

So whenever we go on vacation and stay in a hotel (when the heat and the roaches make camping impossible), the kids pig out on TV. We turn on the Disney Channel for the younger kids when we walk in the door, and turn it off when the lights go out. They have to cram it all in in a short amount of time to last them through the long winter nights until the next vacation rolls around.

Funny thing about Disney Channel. If you watch it enough, you'll experience a strong sense of déjà vu, which literally means "already seen" in French. "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody" comes on, and the kids say, "We've already seen this one." The last time they watched TV was a whole year ago, and during those two weeks they may have seen every episode ever made of Zach and Cody. This only goes to strengthen my argument that we don't need to get cable - once a year TV viewing is enough.

Occasionally we do feel like we're missing out. It would have been nice to see the Olympics or some sports now and then. Luckily Bullwinkle's has a big TV for pizza and the World Series. We had to watch the presidential debates and the Saturday Night Live clips on YouTube, which takes a huge amount of patience, let me tell you. We saw President Obama's inaugural speech at Centennial Hall, where an enthusiastic crowd gathered for "Breakfast with the President." I'm hoping that this will be a lasting memory for the kids, even without the commercials.

I haven't checked to see if you can watch commercials on YouTube. I can't even believe I'm saying that. The whole purpose of commercials is to give you a chance to go to the bathroom or check the laundry, right? You're not supposed to actually watch them, much less remember them 30 years later. Sometimes you really do feel like a nut.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring children's author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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