Do they still have Saturday morning cartoons? I’m asking because it’s Saturday and for the last several hours my kids have been staring at their iPads watching YouTube videos, the silence broken only by the sounds of snacking.
You’d be wrong if you’re thinking I’m going to go off on a typical rant about how TV has changed and when I was a kid we had one TV and no remote control and you had to watch whatever came on. This is well-trodden material. My kids can’t wrap their heads around the concept of television in the 1980s. To this day, if my wife and I are watching a rerun of “Friends” and we explain that we can’t fast-forward the commercials because “this show is on TV right now” our bewildered offspring will ask, “You mean this is happening now?”
Yes, Ross and Rachel are currently on a break. Right now.
I’d say that we have no idea what they’re watching on YouTube, but they insist on telling us. For our daughter, it’s a steady diet of videos of perky children making slime and, even worse, over-enthusiastic moms playing with toys and making crafts. It’s really a bad influence because after watching these amphetamine-fueled women create an elaborate 14-step craft project that requires pulling a permit from the city, our daughter turns to us hoping to find the same wide-eyed excitement. Sweetie, we’re a year into a pandemic and that woman is insane.
Our son has gravitated to gaming videos (you know, watching adults play video games), as well as the latest offerings in adolescent comedy. This is big business. “Dad, did you know DanTDM has 40 million subscribers?” “Dad, this week Mr. Beast is giving away a Tesla.” Apparently Mr. Beast, a sleepy-eyed 20-something with a crew of mouth-breathing friends, is making Oprah-level money filling houses with “elephant toothpaste” and “going to jail for 24 hours.” Son, if you study really hard and get good grades, you can… never mind. Son, there’s no correlation between hard work and income.
The real struggle is when we attempt to watch something as a family. There is no Venn Diagram that includes something that will appeal to the adults in the house and is also appropriate for children. It’s a process that usually ends up with my wife and I saying something like, “Why is ‘True Lies’ rated R?”
Whatever we pick, it’s usually torture for someone. Right now we’re in the middle of a multi-night viewing of the director’s cut of the Civil War epic “Gods and Generals” starring… Jeff Daniels? It’s educational, right? Fun fact: The movie is the exact same length as the actual Civil War.
But on many nights, we simply can’t agree on anything to watch, so our kids retreat to their corners while my wife puts on a Bravo reality show. I haven’t touched the remote in years, but for some reason everyone asks me where it is when it’s lost.
Having children means that my wife and I have missed much of The Golden Age of TV. No “Game of Thrones.” No “Better Call Saul.” No “Bridgerton.” Our kids’ very existence contributes to our acceleration toward pop culture ignorance, yet they’ll complain in 20 years when we require their assistance operating our TV.
And for that, we’ll punish them now with a forced binge-viewing of “The Wonder Years.”
Jon Kile is a stay-at-home dad, writer and amateur homeschool teacher in St. Pete. He and his wife Monica, a nonprofit consultant and marathoner, have a habit of loading their two kids into their RV and disappearing down the backroads of America. After he was diagnosed with a rare condition called Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Jon adjusted his lifestyle while finding inner peace and humor. Visit dontmakemeturnthisvanaround.com.