"Can I have the TV on?" It's practically the first sentence out of my eldest son's mouth in the morning, apart from "Is it morning yet?", which is almost always yelled at some time during the middle of the night, when it definitely isn't morning.
And, if the answer is no, he comes out with his backup question:
"Can I play on my Nintendo DS?"
A few times we've argued over his obsession with either the television or computer games, and I find myself turning into the old man I promised myself I'd never become.
"When I was your age," I reprimand, usually wagging a finger, "we entertained ourselves by doing something practical, like going outside, or drawing, or crafts. Most of my childhood was plastered in papier-mache!"
All I'm faced with is a blank stare, followed by a frown, followed by something along the lines of: "But I want something with a screen!"
Brilliant. Problem is, he's also at the age when he is a bit of a smart-alec. One day, I decide to confront him about his obsession with technology.
"Why do you always have to watch television?" I ask, as he stares goggle-eyed at CBeebies. His gaze remains fixed upon presenters who smile too much as he answers, his voice monotonous and deadpan.
"What about when I'm asleep?" he asks, smarmily. "I don't watch telly then."
I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle. On one hand it's me, trying desperately to explain to my children that art is fun, that sport is fun, and that there is a world of amazing things to do if he would just turn off the television or close the DS and open himself to a land of scissors, PVA glue, and imagination.
On the other hand there's the TV, with its gaudy bright colours, grinning presenters, and catchy jingles. I turn the television off, of course, and force my children to do something else, but I want them to choose to draw a picture or read a book, instead of having to do it under duress.
I mean, if only he'd read a book. He enjoys the odd story here and there, but nothing like the extent to which I used to read when I was his age. I would spend hours sitting on the settee hunched over a well-thumbed copy of a 'Horrible Histories' book, engrossed for hours, completely oblivious to what was going on around me, sometimes even missing meals because I was that immersed in a different world.
But, try as I might, my son is quickly lured away by the irritating call of the television, and eventually I give in and the screen once again flickers into life. Art Attack is on, and Neil Buchanan does his thing with poster paints and black felt-tip pens.
This is what you could make by yourself if you wanted to in real life, I tell Isaac, gesturing towards the television where Neil is eagerly bunching up sheets of newspaper. But his eyes have already widened and glazed over, and I know he hasn't heard a single word.
Do you feel saddened your children are so keen on screens?
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