So then…he folds his skinny little arms over the covers, juts out his chin, and says, “But, Mom, I can’t make it 4 days without TV!”
I stifle a smile as I click on the lamp on the bedside table. My 5 year-old son is fresh from bathing, so he’s tucked in bed in colorful jammies with damp hair and the sweet face of an angel — but his expression has all the gut-wrenching desperation of a junkie who’s just been denied access to the methadone clinic.
I plop next to him on the bed and say, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”
“Crime? Mom, come on!”
“Tucker, I warned you several times earlier today, so you knew the consequences of your behavior.”
“Mom, why don’t you take away my video games? I love video games way more than TV,” he says hopefully.
Not so fast, Brer Rabbit.
I shoot him a look. “Do you think I don’t know that your video game controller is broken? I’m not taking away something you can’t use anyway. So no TV for 4 days.”
“This is so not fair!” He furrows his little brow.
“Oh come on, take it like a man. When I was your age, if I misbehaved, I would have been spanked!” I turn toward him and prop my head on the pillow.
“But I can’t live without TV for that long!” he says.
“That’s what Rico thought too. Did I ever tell you about him? When I was a kid, he lived in the house across the street from us in Panama. He was a little older than you are now and loved TV. But his dad was pretty strict so he restricted the time Rico could watch it. And he’d take it away if Rico misbehaved. They fought about it a lot. One time, when Rico was forbidden from watching TV, he got up in the middle of the night to sneak TV without his dad knowing — but his dad came in — and you know what he did?”
“What?” asks Tucker, very interested.
“He shot the TV!”
“WHAT?” asks Tucker in surprise.
“Yep, he had a service revolver, this gun, and he just walked right over and shot the TV!”
Tucker contemplates the death of his favorite device very somberly. “Did they get a new TV?”
“No, and what’s more, Rico’s dad insisted that the TV sit there in the living room for months as a constant reminder – shattered screen and all.”
“That’s awful,” says Tucker. He’s horrified by this story, which reminds me of another childhood memory of this family.
“Yeah, the dad was really strict. Rico’s sister was a teenager at the time and really beautiful – thick long black hair all the way to her waist, pretty face, gorgeous eyes – but he wanted her to focus on high school and stay away from boys, so he forbid her to date. So one night she said she was going to her friend’s house to do homework — but when she came home, her dad found out that she’d been on a date with a college guy! So you know what he did?”
“He shot her?” asks Tucker with wide eyes.
“No, no, no!” I laugh out loud. “He didn’t shoot her! He waited ‘til she was asleep, then he picked up her ponytail and cut her hair off!”
“Really?” he asks, dismayed.
“Yes, really! She was devastated! She went from this long luxurious hair all the way down her back to this hideous pixie cut. I think he was trying to teach her something about the dangers of being vain and too focused on beauty or something. The whole neighborhood talked about that for months.”
My mind is still replaying those memories when I notice Tucker becoming very quiet, a tiny little worry line between his eyebrows. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned these stories right before the poor little guy goes to sleep. He’ll probably have nightmares of gun-toting, scissor-wielding maniacs chasing him!
I hug him and say, “Don’t worry, honey. No one’s gonna shoot the TV or chop off your hair while you sleep!”
“Um…OK,” he says unconvincingly.
I feel terrible, of course, but maybe his 4 days of TV exile doesn’t seem quite so bad now.
— Darcy Perdu
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(Have you ever taken TV away from your kids? What consequences do you impose when they behave badly? Do those differ from the way your parents punished you and your siblings?)