The situation still sticks in my mind. A mother came to pick up her child. It was one of the first times my then three-year-old daughter had had someone to visit and I let them watch a film...
When the mother saw her child in front of the screen, a look of severe dismay spread across her face: "I would have preferred to have been there when my child watched telly for the first time." No more, no less. Gulp! I only had the wits to mumble something about how much fun the film was, which was obviously not good enough and completely beside the point anyway. I was stunned that this three-year-old had not yet watched telly, and even more by the fact that this was apparently an occasion of such significance that it should have been supervised by parents.
Culture clash? Perhaps - I haven’t experienced such strong morals and bad consciences about children’s television consumption anywhere but in Germany. Sure, there are a lot of more worthwhile ways to spend your time, and I would dare to claim that my kids explore a fair percentage of them in their daily lives, which are filled to the brim with interaction with other kids and adults in playgrounds etc.
But my kids came out of the Christmas holidays singing “Rory, die Nummer eins” and “Heidi, deine Welt sind die Berge” from two solid hours of morning telly every day… which meant that we, the-less-than-ideal-parents, could sleep for two hours extra. And this, is must be said, had a great effect on the family energy pool as a whole.
The sermon on Christmas Eve was great this year. The priest talked about the increase in the general level of angst amongst us: angst about terrorism, pesticides, smoking, gaining weight, all the things we don’t do right. His counter-suggestion was that we should enjoy ourselves more - in other words, we ought to spend less time thinking about what we should and shouldn’t do. Amen.