Why Letting My 3-Year-Old Watch TV Is Actually Good For Her
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Rejection is a deadening business, and especially for the serially forsaken. I have been told “no” often, professionally, and grown semi-used to its sting but I will tell you what: God damn the man or woman who rejects my daughter. And I turn around, while steering around traffic on Southern California’s 405 freeway, to tell her this but she is smiling ear to ear, consumed by the comedic plight of Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
It has been a week filled with failure for my gorgeous one. We had set out to make her a famous model, going to Rome and shooting spectacular headshots, which I sent to agents with great hope. Her eyes are brighter than the sun. Her lips are 2 perfect rubies. They replied straight away and wanted more, asking for pictures featuring her hair down. Her hair is bleached hay hanging just to her neck that appears to have been chopped, willy-nilly, by a dull blade. I would send “hair down” pictures, because the rest of her is flawless and, in the right light, her hair is chic punk. Like Agyness Deyn.
And I would receive rejection form emails in response. “Thank you very much for your submission but at this time ___________ Model & Talent is not going to move forward with representation. We appreciate your interest and hope you understand that we receive hundreds of submissions a month and cannot reply with why your specific submission was declined.”
But I knew why. The visionless drones want their little girls to look the same. They want cascading ringlets down to, or past, shoulders, like American Girl dolls, because that is what sells this minute. Their imaginations are stunted by the now. And inside I seethed. I’ve got an Agnyness Deyn! I’ve got something unique! So I strapped her into her carseat and off we went to an open catalogue casting in Los Angeles to do the work ourselves.
I want to tell Hemingway, as I briefly study her face lit by warm iPad glow, that her namesake, said, ‘America is the land of wide lawns and narrow minds.’
Some people dislike driving in LA but I have always loved it, because fiery oratory sounds much better inside my head and right now I am smashing those small-minded agents. I want to tell Hemingway, as I briefly study her face lit by warm iPad glow, that her namesake, said, “America is the land of wide lawns and narrow minds.” But, again, she doesn’t care what I have to teach because she is learning different, better lessons from a nerdy dog and his muddle-headed boy. Like how to be yourself in any context and how to love differences and how to rise above all odds.
Television and film have been a part of her life since as long as she can remember. I wanted her to find great joy in something I cherish so I would set her up in the TV room and put on theDisney Channel or Nickelodeon. She didn’t care at first, trying to crawl away, but I didn’t give up and soon she was sitting still following Dora on her adventures and learning the art of teamwork from The Wonder Pets.
It took some work but at one year old she would ask for episodes by name, at almost 2 she sat through the entirety ofBig Hero 6, eyes tearing up at all the appropriate times. And at almost 3 her palate is that of a sophisticated eight-year-old. She enjoys Uncle Grandpa,Clarence, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Figaro Pho etc.
And I am very pleased because I love watching with her. We live in a golden age of animation, a renaissance, and we laugh together all the time. She knows so many amazing things about this world. Like leeches can be used to combat swelling ( The Boxtrolls), the East Australian Current dumps you in Sydney if you take the right exit (Finding Nemo) and when dragons get babies they eat them (?). She insists on telling this last one to everybody she meets and I have no idea where she got it from but the sentiment seems both accurate and important.
Scientific studies, by their very nature, throw out highs and lows, focusing on some generic middle but my daughter isn’t generic.
The parents at my local park would likely take a dim view of all this. Any chatter involving screen time is met with derisive glowers and citations of scientific studies that reveal how damaging it all is to developing minds. They talk about how their little ones spend non-park hours practicing counting skills or Spanish. Their little ones zip down the slide but, generally, neither count nor speak Spanish. My little one tells them when dragons get babies they eat them.
And practice really is the key. My daughter practiced, often, and now she knows you don’t have to have super powers to be super ( Teen Titans Go!), where Neuschwanstein Castle is (Little Einsteins) and how to say “Neuschwanstein” like a true German (Augsburger Puppenkiste). Above all, her emotional intelligence is astute thanks to Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
Which brings us back to modeling. Our children are, each one, unique and as modern parents we encourage them to find their own voice. Scientific studies, by their very nature, throw out highs and lows, focusing on some generic middle but my daughter isn’t generic. Television and film work for her. Likewise, the baby modeling industry, by its very nature, looks for some generic ultra-marketable middle look that translates and sells today. If bleached hay that appears to have been chopped willy-nilly is not du monde then my gorgeous one will not book jobs. Maybe she should become a child actor with an eye on becoming a director like Jodie Foster?
I turn around to ask her if she’d like to be on TV instead of the runway as we finally pull into the open casting call parking lot. She looks up. Her expression is alive. “I want to be a model …” she says apropos of nothing. “… and a doctor. I want to be a model doctor.”
Bummer. I am horrible at math.
Cocktail Recipe That Best Accompanies Cartoon Time
- One part tequila
- One part orange juice your child didn’t drink for breakfast
- Four ice cubes
Chas Smith is a hyper-ironic surf journalist and bon vivant from Coos Bay, Oregon. He has written for Vice, Surfing Magazine, Stab Magazine, Esquire.com, and is the cofounder of Beachgrit.com. His book latest book is Welcome To Paradise, Now Go To Hell.