Miffy, To The Rescue

We are a TV-less family. I have to admit that I do rather wear it as a badge at times but to be completely honest, it didn’t start out as a noble experiment to better our lives and save my quickly softening brain.

When Action Girl and I got our first apartment together, we were… shall we say, on a highly restrictive budget. Back in those days, we were both working as substitute teachers for the Vermont School System and to say that the pay was spotty and meager, would be charitable indeed. It was also a little slice of hell, but that’s another story.

Our apartment was simple, a third floor walk up on a winding road, tucked in a valley. Most of Vermont, as a matter of fact, is on a winding road, tucked in a valley. What this meant was that though we did not have enough money to purchase a TV, it hardly mattered. With the best rabbit ears on the planet, all we could possibly hope for was possibly two channels, only watchable if I made a tinfoil hat and hung on to the end of one of the antennas like a deranged stick bug.

Cable? Ha! Not only was that not in the cards, but I’m pretty sure it had been removed from the playing deck before we got the pack out of the cellophane. No. No cable.

So, for the first time in my life, I was TV-less. Let the D.T.’s begin. It didn’t take long actually. As soon as you’re a month or so out from the shows that you follow, you realize that as far as the stories go, there is no way to get back on the crest of that wave and you might as well let it slip along with out you and paddle home.

Then, a discovery was made. Suddenly, I had time. LOTS of time! I really got into reading for fun, again. Hobbies that had been set aside years ago were once again picked up and enjoyed. Once the hallucinations and the shakes had subsided, I really got into doing fun things rather than watching other people do them on the tube.

The other side to this component is that I’m a TV whore. I’ll sit there and watch a 2 hour documentary on felt making, no problem. After an evening with a TV at my dispasal, I tend to look up and wonder what just happened to that six hours that I had. I’ve really come to dislike that feeling. If we go anywhere with a TV playing in the background, I have to sit with my back to it or I won’t hear a word my friends or relatives say. I’m that hopeless.

So, it’s been about fourteen years now with out a TV and I’ve never been happier. Now, there’s YouTube and the like to keep up on the things that are culturally important, but for the most part, I’m pretty disconnected with what’s playing on the black boxes all over the country. Then, we had kids.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still don’t own a TV and I really don’t intend to. My problem is that I also don’t want to cut my kids off from what is really the strongest social bond we have in this country. It’s what kids (and adults) tend to lead off conversations with and so many little TV sayings are sprinkled throughout our everyday chatter, that it doesn’t seem right to make the awkwardness of youth any harder by missing out on such a huge part of the culture. Here again, I call on YouTube.

It’s a wonderful bastion of new and old. On YouTube, we watch a lot of good ole’ “School House Rock”, coming straight out of my childhood memories. Short Stack likes them, especially “Conjunction Junction” but his all time favorite request, is Miffy. He adores Miffy!

For the uninitiated, Miffy is a little white bunny who lives in a small house with Mother Bunny and Father Bunny. She has a red scooter, a proclivity for exclaiming things like “Oh dear!” or “Thank you, Mother.” and plays with various other woodland friends including Poppy and Grunty Pig, Boris Bear and Melody Bunny. I don’t mind him watching this on the computer. Miffy’s been around since 1955, is very easy going, teaches nice, simple lessons such as, ‘butterflies come from caterpillars’ and is pretty slow paced. That and because it’s not on TV, there were no commercials to tempt him and thus, the evils of merchandising were held at bay.

Wrong!

I miscalculated… and I really should have seen this coming. My two year old doesn’t have any money. I have it. The other things I have are access to the internet and the burning desire for my children to have things that make them happy. So, one trip to EBay and bingo, I’m ordering Miffy merch. It started off with a DVD. All the episodes I found on YouTube are pirated, naturally, and thus, being constantly taken down by the powers that be. With the happiness of a two year old at stake, reliability is more than a little important, so, I bought one Miffy DVD. That’s fine. No biggie. It’s not like I’m hooked.

Then, I noticed that Amazon was offering a new Miffy DVD. By now we had watched the other DVD until images from it were burned into my computer’s screen. Short Stack was now capable of quoting long passages and started narrating everything he was doing to an invisible audience. The new DVD wasn’t out yet, but you could pre-order! I didn’t even have to think about it. Out came the plastic. Hey, I can quit any time I want.

Then, one night as Action Girl and I were relaxing in the half hour we get after the kids go to sleep and before we fall apart, I found the motherload. It was the Miffy equivalent of heroin. It was a fifteen inch tall, plush Miffy WITH an accompanying DVD. Needless to say, it was quickly ordered. Ok… We’re hooked.

I was starting to feel a bit ashamed now. After all my high falootin’ talk about no TV and it’s endless barrage of “buy, buy, buy!”, here I was taking up the challenge of finding this stuff on my own and getting it for my kids. What had I become!? AAGH! I’m a consumer of kid’s merch!

Then, a couple of nights ago, as related in my last story, Short Stack had a life changing moment. He learned to be afraid of the dark. It’s the most basic human instinct and an inevitable stage for the vast majority of us. As a parent, it made me feel powerless to help. After all, I can’t stop night from coming.

The day after his first frightening night, a package arrived on our porch. I honestly forgot all about what was inside. It was Miffy. All fifteen inches of happy, white bunny. Short Stack was beside himself with glee. It was the bunny whom he had come to love and quote at length, right here! In his house! In the fur! That night, Miffy went to bed tucked tight in Short Stack’s embrace. The happy little bunny had a place of honor on his pillow and kept the night safe. Nothing could go wrong with Miffy at your side.

So, consumerism isn’t all bad. With the DVD’s. we still get to avoid the annoying ads for various plastic items that your child didn’t even know they needed. We can watch them when ever he wants and more importantly, can pause them to watch later, or over and over and over again.

Now, if I can just cut back on my Miffy habit, I should be all set.

Yah. Right. I’m doomed.

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5 Responses

  1. Sounds like the Barney addictions of way back when. At least Miffy is educational. I think it’s great to have no TV. So much can come on TV “sneaking” in on there in commercials even, that you don’t want the kids to see. *stands and applauds* the great parenting.

    Hey, thanks! We’re trying as best as we can! My biggest complaint about kids TV is that it’s too fast paced. It seems like so much of it is high speed, flashing colors and shouting. I just wanted something more mellow. Here’s a scary story for you. Some time ago, we had friends and their teen age kids over for movie night. We watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. About half way through, the kids wandered off to do other things. They found the movie “too slow” to watch and complained that people kept talking all the time. I want to try to avoid that.
    -TP

  2. I’m living in the land of Miffy: you need Miffy? I can find Miffy … everything!!! Pencils, pencil cases, tissue, books, bags, clothes, … You name it I’ve seen it.

    Let me know if you need a box of Miffyness sent your way 🙂 It would be a pleasure.

    Hey! Thanks Ross! I bet you have a lot of Miffy over there! The first time I saw her, my thought was that someone put Hello Kitty in a bunny suit. At the moment, we’re all set with the plush Miffy and DVD’s. I’ll be sure to let you know if other needs arise. Thanks for the heart felt offer!
    -TP

  3. I’m with you on not getting cable. Over 100 stations and still nothing to watch with the added irritation of a bill every month for the privilege. I have to admit that I watch free to air TV and my wife and I will turn it off if there isn’t anything on that we find interesting.

    I went through my school years not seeing Star Trek when it first came out (my parents hated it). I used to feel so left out when the kids at school used to rave on about it.

    The miffy story is sweet.

    The kicker now, is that rabbit ears will cease to work since the change over to digital. No more analog broadcasts so it’s either cable or nothing. Actually, that’s not accurate. It’s cable or internet. Im going internet only.

    Your Star Trek story is exactly what I mean about not wanting to hamstring my kids when it comes to popular culture. I also don’t want to forbid it so that it takes on an aura of “must have”. Man, this parenting thing is tricky!
    -TP

  4. Yeah yeah yeah, got quite a few friends with no TVs… They come to my place to watch their shows. Not owning a TV comes in at #28 in the “Definitive Guide to Stuff White People Like”, between Marathons and 80s Night. Let me quote from the bible:

    “On those lonely nights when white people wish they could be watching American Idol, Lost, or Grey’s Anatomy, they comfort themselves by thinking of how when people talk about the show tomorrow, they can say: “I didn’t see it. I don’t have a TV. That stuff rots your brain.”

    I doubt they talk about Miffy around the water cooler though.

    Obviously, you aren’t hanging out at the right water coolers!

    Well, you do have the part about me being white correct, but actually, not having a TV just about killed me when I had to go without. Now that it’s been so long, I can honestly say that I have never once watched any of those shows even once and I don’t care to either. That stuff rots your soul. 🙂
    -TP

  5. Our Miffy was ‘Spot’ and ‘Kipper’. We, too, appreciated the fact that there were no commercials. It gets much more difficult when they get to school and everyone has Pokemon, etc. I’ve never heard of Miffy. VeggieTales (Saturday morning fun, Sunday morning values), yes, oh the Veggie Tales. I’d recommend A Snoodle’s Tale if you like Seuss. Highly recommend. Lil’bug is hooked on Dora, Diego, WonderPets, and Backyardigans (all from Nick Jr.).

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