18/02/2014 04:40 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Addicted To Children's TV (Me, Not The Baby)

Woman watching TV with sleepy baby


You know something has gone awry on the parenting front when you're so engrossed in Postman Pat you fail to notice that your own son has just learned a new word.

The word was "book" (pronounced "buck" like someone trying to sound posh and getting it wrong) and Elliot was not only saying it proudly and repeatedly but also climbing up onto my lap and affectionately hitting me in the face with said "buck" to reinforce the point.

It should have been one of those heart-melting moments. I should have been gazing at him all glassy-eyed, wondering how I came to create such a clever and adorable human life.

And had his grandparents been around that's exactly how it would have played out: "Ooh, he's saying book! He's going to be a literary genius."

But me? No, I was just glued to the screen, wondering if Pat would be able to lift the water tower off the rail-track at Greendale Station before the train came through.

Perhaps it was a mixed blessing Elliot had been at nursery the previous week when he took his first real steps. I mean picture the scene...

"Elliot, can you stop walking in front of the telly – Mrs Goggins has lost her dog and if it doesn't turn up in the next two minutes she'll miss her train to the seaside."

Two minutes later...

"Hang on, did I just say WALKING?!"

Obviously once I realised Elliot had added another word to his ever expanding vocabulary, I went into the usual proud-mum frenzy, squeezing him to within an inch of his life and encouraging him to say the word again and again to rapturous applause.

But the moment was tinged with deep shame.


What kind of a mother was more interested in the exploits of a hapless – and fictitious – Royal Mail employee than the adventures of her own baby?


It was one thing that I had to hear about so many of Elliot's achievements from his key carer at nursery but to miss the special moments unfolding right before my eyes – this was a double-whammy of shame (1. Failure to engage with child; 2. Clear signs of a CBeebies dependency).

I'd heard parents banging on about the adverse effects of watching too much children's TV but I'm pretty sure that was usually meant in reference to the child, not Mum.

In my defence, Postman Pat does hold a certain nostalgic charm for me but even the gripping new Special Delivery Service spin-off is not exactly Breaking Bad, is it?

I suppose it could have been worse – it could have been Jeremy Kyle or Loose Women.

And on the bright side, Elliot was clearly far less dependent on the screen than me. The pint-sized literary genius was too engrossed in his upside-down book to care about the TV.

I hurriedly switched it off, anyway – once I'd established Rastamouse wasn't on next – and immediately engaged in some 'real' parenting to make up for my shameless start to the day. From now on I was going to be Hands-On Mum.

It started off well – I pointed at various things in the book and Elliot said what they were (personal favourite: "apple" pronounced "bapple"). Then I picked up his 'animals' book and went through a few noises until I confused him by asking him what noise a fish makes.

But after about 10 minutes my mind started to wander again. I began making a mental to-do list: pay Next directory bill, do a whites wash, follow up on email to editor, send off invoice, think of something to make for dinner, change Elliot's cot sheet, Google pictures of celebrities with red hair for potential image change inspiration...

Before I knew it, I was reaching for the iPad and leaving poor Elliot to fend for himself yet again. Two minutes wouldn't do any harm, would it? It was good to teach children a bit of independence, anyway.

Naturally, I bypassed the urgent emails (I could do those at nap time when it was easier to concentrate) and went straight to celebrity redheads. I don't know how many pages of Google images I flicked through but I must have spent longer on it than planned because the calibre of celebrity had taken a serious nosedive.

It was only as I found myself grimacing at a picture of Anne Robinson that my final 'bad parenting' warning was delivered.

But this time Elliot wasn't trying to get my attention with a new word. This was a noise of a very different nature. For a split second I thought he was choking. I spun round to find him standing there staring at me, with his fingers jammed right down his throat, gagging.

I quickly Googled it (I know, I know but this was a parenting emergency) to find that it is quite common for young children to stick their fingers down their throat when they are craving attention.

Elliot had turned to making himself sick to get my attention? I felt dizzy with guilt.

Needless to say, I have been a changed woman since then (and I'm not talking about my hair colour). The iPad is only allowed out at nap times and in the evenings and children's TV has been drastically cut back.

The day I prioritise Postman Pat over my son again is the day Mrs Goggins starts cooking crystal meth*.

Take the telly addict test

Worried that your own children's TV consumption may be getting out of hand? Take this simple test and find out...

1. Do you have a kids' TV show theme tune in your head at all times?

2. Can you name four shows that Justin (of Mr Tumble fame) stars in?

3. Is Mr Bloom the closest you get to a bit of daily eye candy?

4. Do you know the names of all the In The Night Garden characters?

If you can answer 'yes' to more than three of the above questions, you are officially a children's TV addict.

*If you don't get the crystal meth reference, you must go out immediately and buy the Breaking Bad box-set because nothing puts 'cleaning up toddler vomit at 3am' into perspective like a day in the life of Walter White. Just make sure you only watch it after the kids have gone to bed.