Shh...Mum is Thinking

Sunday, July 30, 2006

No News is Good News

It’s been a longstanding tradition in my family that dinner time is news time. Our favourite news, one with a more global than local view, comes on at 6.30. This is such a long standing tradition that I don’t have to tell the kids to turn the news on when we’re ready for dinner; every night is the same. They help set the table with items I hand over the counter, fetch the cups and turn on the tv to the channel we watch.

Over time, we’ve adopted some unspoken ground rules to our dinner time/news time:

First, you’re not allowed to talk (about the news item you’re watching, anyway) until it concludes. You can ask someone to pass the salt, or please wipe the mashed potatoes off their forehead, but no questions or comments about a news item allowed until it is finished. Otherwise we might miss something important.

Secondly, we’re not allowed to give opinions. Well, you can say “That’s sad.” “That’s good!” “That’s interesting.” Otherwise it’s just facts, please. We adults save the knock-‘em-down drag-‘em-out (verbal!) debate stuff for after the kids bedtime. We don’t like the idea of indoctrinating children to our opinions; to us, it just seems better to give them facts and wait till they’re older to talk ‘opinions’ . When they’re old enough, they’ll have the right and obligation to form their own opinions, and we’ll hash things out then, I guess. In the meantime, this part of our dinner time tradition can be highly amusing when, for instance, my husband or I have to give the ‘other side’ of a debate we’ve had. Kinda funny to hear my husband give my opinion to the kids as though it has equal weight to his own. That works both ways of course, but it’s only funny when he does it ;-)

Our news is good to warn us about disturbing images coming up; Mum keeps the remote handy for a quick switch of channels. This is the third rule. Mum has the power of censorship. It’s the one time I get total control of the remote, and I glory in that power.


No more bad stuff.

I’m excercising that power completely now, in the same way I did after 9/11. My kids have become increasingly upset at some of the stories we've heard and pictures we've seen-- and not just the violent stuff. Families separated, running in fear, buildings bombed, children hurt and crying, parents weeping, old people displaced. The last news we watched had us all choking back tears, and I realised enough is enough, at least for now.

We'd best not feed the children grief along with their daily bread.

Please don’t think I’m taking sides on this issue. This isn’t even dinner table rules taking effect, it’s just that the issues are so complicated in the Middle East that I couldn’t begin to say who is right, who is wrong, what should be done to fix problems for which hundreds of diplomats and heads of state over scores of years have failed to find solutions.

I’m just sad. That things can’t be different, better, peaceful. Sad for the ordinary people who suffer and wish for peace, but cannot find it.

Sad for our children, who will unavoidably inherit this grief.

I’ll miss our news time together.


At 10:33 AM, July 31, 2006, Blogger Natalia said...


At 4:53 PM, August 01, 2006, Blogger Julia said...

We had the TV on during dinner when I was little. The one rule I can remember was you did NOT talk during the weather forecast. Anything else was fair game.

This led to such traumas as my 3-year-old sister demanding that my mother, in 1974, explain Watergate, and being disappointed to the point of tears and screaming when no explanation was forthcoming.

We don't have the news on in front of the kids. And if we want a weather forecast, there's always the Weather Channel now, which is usually OK.

At 12:10 AM, August 02, 2006, Blogger Mum is Thinking said...

Hi Natalia :-)

Julia, we watched the news at dinner when I was little, too. I have fairly detailed memories of adult discussions of events at the time. I also remember an adult taking a PHOTO of the tv screen when Nixon gave his speech giving up the presidency, isn't that funny?

Your poor mum, how could you possibly explain Watergate to a 3 year old?! That would be hard.

Until things calm down I've found a children's news show on our public service channel that we're substituting for the 'real' news. I'm glad about that, it's child safe but still presents some of the most important information. Too bad it isn't on at dinner time, though.

I love the weather channel, and at least you can be sure there's nothing controversial there!


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