Earlier this week, the younger Free-Ride offspring “made a bad decision” about time utilization at the after school program, electing to play outside and do a project before doing homework, meaning the homework was still unfinished when I arrived to fetch the sprogs.
The standard consequence for this is, apparently, one of the greatest horrors that can be visited upon a third grader: the loss of screen-time (which in the Free-Ride household covers television, computers, and hand-held game systems).
Through angry tears, the younger Free-Ride offspring responded to this travesty thusly:
Younger Free-Ride offspring: This is horrible! This will make three days in a row with no screen-time!
Dr. Free-Ride: Child, you’ll survive. Generations of children grew up without screens at all, so you can make it through three days.
Younger Free-Ride offspring: But I want to watch TV.
Dr. Free-Ride: Mmm-hmm, and the hope is that this will help you remember to use your time wisely.
Younger Free-Ride offspring: No, I need to watch TV!
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh really?
Younger Free-Ride offspring: Watching TV is one of my hobbies! If I don’t do it regularly, I’ll get rusty!
Dr. Free-Ride: What?
Younger Free-Ride offspring: Without practice, I’ll forget how to use the remote or change channels.
Dr. Free-Ride: The horror! You might end up watching a Congressional debate!
Younger Free-Ride offspring: Or South Park!
(By this point even the offended sprog was cracking a smile.)
Dr. Free-Ride: This all seems kind of … improbable. I have this sense that television watching is the kind of activity people can fall right back into even if they haven’t done it in a long time, no need for practice or stretches or anything like that.
Younger Free-Ride offspring: Really, there are lots of buttons on the remote. I could forget where the mute button is, or forget that I’m supposed to mute the commercials.
Dr. Free-Ride: Not in a matter of days. And not if you know what’s good for you.
Younger Free-Ride offspring: If I knew that, my homework would probably be done already.
* * * * *
Being a science-minded child, the younger Free-Ride offspring is convinced that there must be some research out there that bears on whether you can “get rusty” at watching television, and would welcome pointers to papers that report the findings of such research.
Dr. Free-Ride is fairly confident that even if the evidence indicates that one can “get rusty” at watching television, she can make the case that the younger Free-Ride offspring’s interest in not losing this knack is less important than other interests, like mastering the skills being taught in school, or avoiding stupid fights with parents about homework.
Dr. Free-Ride is less confident that the younger Free-Ride offspring will be persuaded by this argument.