I let my kids watch television, and it’s awesome. There, I said it. More power to those parents who can raise kids without the electronic that is far more interesting than anything that I can come up with. I admit it; my boys will grow up knowing that their mom loves HGTV and a mild little show called Game of Thrones (the latter of which is not turned on unless they’re out of the house or I can hear audible snores coming from their rooms).
To me, it’s all about substance and moderation. There are valuable kid-friendly shows like Mysteries of the Museum (Travel Channel), How It’s Made (Discovery Channel), and Brain Games (National Geographic Channel) that are both fun and informative. I admit, however, that not everything watched is educational in nature. You will never hear the nonsensical Sponge Bob Square Pants and his annoying voice in my house, but my kids have watched Ruby save her little brother Max from multiple misadventures (which begs the question – where are their parents, by the way?) Alas, I digress.
Simply put, I think television can play a positive role in my children’s lives if I use it appropriately. Case in point – my nine year old has discovered the Food Network. Specifically, he has become fascinated by the Kids Baking Championship, Chopped Junior, and Cake Wars. These shows are crazy awesome. I couldn’t believe the first time I watched these ten years old make their own pasta and expertly fold heavy whipping cream into their made-from-scratch desserts. They’re rock stars, and it’s so refreshing to see an entire community of kids be interested in something other than electronics or music that they’re probably not old enough to be listening to. I wasn’t the only one left with a lasting impression – my son was affected, too. After watching these shows for a few weeks, he said the words that I never thought I would hear. “Mom, I want to learn to bake.”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I smiled for a day straight. We went to the grocery store and I felt part of a little unit, a tiny little twosome on the hunt for baking stuff. We started out small; he picked out a cupcake mix and embellishments for his first round of baking, creating (with supervision) a fantastic little mango creation with lemon icing and sprinkles (I’m a chocolate fan, myself, but I tried not to influence his decision). The next time, he made strawberry cupcakes with raspberries (with even less supervision, but seriously, where’s the chocolate?). Cupcakes in the house that I didn’t have to bake? OK, yes, please.
Deliciousness aside, these experiences are teaching my son something that he never wanted to learn until he saw other kids doing it (goodness knows, he wasn’t inspired by watching me in the kitchen for years). I don’t yet let him do anything with the oven, but besides that, he’s on his own. If the recipe calls for oil, he needs to get it, measure it out, and pour. He cracks the eggs himself, and I let him figure it out even though I start to twitch as soon as the egg yolk hits the counter. So far, the splatter that has come from the blender has been manageable, but so have the recipes. And, to think, it was all because of a show that he has grown to love on the Food Network.
Recently, my little baker announced that he wants to “learn to cook meals.” He didn’t have to ask me twice, his first creation a simple spaghetti recipe that introduced him to herbs, seasonings, and how best to use them. At dinner, he then told the table about his use of oregano (I’m pretty sure he called it Oregon) and parsley in the sauce. I couldn’t have been more proud, not because dinner was a culinary masterpiece, but because he got inspired by something and wasn’t afraid to try.
And, for me? I’m now more mindful of the foods that we’re preparing because he’s right there with me in the kitchen. He calls the boxed cupcake mix “beginner kits” because he knows from the Food Network that there’s another way to make them. That means that I’m now stepping up my game, eager to teach him about different types of salads, homemade dressings, and how easy it is to make his own stuffed ricotta shells and meatballs. He’s my sous chef and sweeter than the layer of frosting he wants to put on everything.
Who knows, he might not be interested in cooking a month for now, so I’m soaking up every little morsel of this time with him now. And, if he learns how to make my favorite food in the process, well then, I’m just going to have to live with that.