Tuesday 20 February 2018

Mother's little helper - the television

Only a fool would try to raise a baby in a home without the ultimate pacifier, says Julia Molony - a TV

'You do not want to attempt to get through the first year with a child without a telly'. Stock photo
'You do not want to attempt to get through the first year with a child without a telly'. Stock photo
Julia Molony

When you are expecting a baby, almost as soon as the test turns positive, you are immediately bombarded with a daunting array of items and equipment that you are made to believe will be absolutely essential in your new life as a breeder.

What surprises me now that my baby is a year old, is that in among the cross-country baby-transport vehicles, rectal thermometers, nappy bins and elaborate mucus-removing devices I was pressed into ownership of, nobody, at any stage, mentioned a television.

I suppose people assume that by the time you get around to reproducing, you will almost certainly already be the proud parent of a 40-inch flatscreen. We, foolishly, were not. Take it from me, you do not want to attempt to get through the first year with a child without a telly.

I'm not quite sure how Le Monsieur and I ended up becoming abstainers. Perhaps it's partly because we don't share the same mother tongue. To your average anglophone, Don't Tell The Bride, or Peter Andre's Bad Boyfriend Club are cheerfully bad taste and a bit of fun. But try explaining the virtues of either of them to a French man. Seen through a filter of foreignness, they are rendered entirely ridiculous. At the beginning of our romance, I tried to explain to him why watching The X Factor together was a vitally important new-relationship bonding experience - best enjoyed post-coitally, while eating Dominos and/or a Chinese takeaway. Looking back, it's a wonder that at that point, I didn't lose him entirely, such was his expression of dismay as he attempted to submit to what he plainly regarded as cultural excrement. The same applies to I'm A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here, Gogglebox, and pretty much the entire reality-TV oeuvre. It's all a bit lost in translation.

So, when, after our first few years together, we moved out of our furnished rental house, we didn't take the TV with us.

I'd like to say that we spent our evenings discussing Descartes and listening to jazz instead. But that would be a lie. Before the baby came along, we had, at least, the occasional out-of-the-house evening diversion that passed for a social life, and helped fill some of the television-shaped hole in my life.

But it was only in the postnatal period that the full folly of embarking on this endeavour without the soothing presence of the flashing screen in the living-room corner really dawned on me. Sometimes, when you are up at 3am with a teething baby, or housebound because of that scary first fever, there is no consolation, no diversion, more indispensable than the box. I'm firmly convinced that in those early hormonal days, we could have achieved about a 65pc reduction in temper tantrums and ugly rows, had we had easy access to a stash of good old opium for the masses.

These days, it's easy to be convinced that with laptops and tablets and Netflix and Amazon Prime at our fingertips, proper telly isn't really necessary. But they are not all the same. You can't sit a fussy infant in front of a laptop while you nip to the loo. Believe me, I've tried. And it's only worse when they start to crawl and walk. That's when you really need a giant flatscreen bolted to the wall, and easy access to the full CBeebies back catalogue.

As for the evenings now, every couple of days, Le Monsieur and I attempt to rendezvous in front of one of our computer screens with a glass of wine and an optimistic agreement to find something to watch on streaming. The problem is, he has an insatiable appetite for corny action (fatherhood seems to have knocked most of the high cultural aspirations out of him) whereas I continue my eternal quest for the perfect frothy comedy. Hours pass as we scroll though Rotten Tomatoes, and search in vain for something we'll both agree to watch. It's the rare night now that we both manage to make it through a whole film still awake.

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