Life Without Television. I have not died.

by Janelle Hanchett


Two weeks ago, my husband removed the television from the living room wall. He then placed it in our closet. It has remained there since. So yes, since that time, we have not had a functioning T.V. in our home.

Now, I would like to tell you that we did this for some deep philosophical purpose – you know, in support of some profound spiritual, insightful, Waldorf-inspired conviction…but that would be a lie.

And you KNOW I never lie.

Yes, I totally do.

But not about this, because I’d totally get caught. If I uttered the words “I removed the television from my house because I want my kids to knit and weave and make felt gnomes all day,” you all would know I was full of shit, because I’ve openly admitted my need for the electronic babysitter.

Plus, you know I am way too lazy for that wool felting thing.

So I’ll tell ya the truth. The truth is we removed the television because our son had the focus of, well, hmmm. How can I explain this?

Picture a river otter on methamphetamine. Now ask it to do algebra.

Yes, yes that’s it.

I may be exaggerating. Maybe. Very thin maybe.

And as I watched our little river otter dart around the world in maniacal inattention, I kept getting the feeling that the television was messing with him. Mac had the same feeling. It was a gut feeling.

We kept throwing around the T.V.-ejection idea, but we always came back to our own laziness. I mean, what about those movies we like to watch once every 6 months, or that vegetating time (which I keep saying I’m going to do but never actually accomplish)? What about 30 Rock? What ABOUT THE OFFICE people THE OFFICE? Don’t fuck with Dwight.

And Rocket LOVED that box. Loved it. Watched it every chance he got. Occasionally threw fits when we made him turn it off.

But as it often happens in my house, one day Mac got serious and just did it. He got his tools out. He took the sucker off the wall. He did it without word or warning.

To tell you the truth, I panicked a little. I mean, what the hell am I going to do with these kids when I need to cook? When I need a break? How I am going to plug them in for a few minutes?

Oh WOW, that sounded awful.

But I figured we’d give it a shot for the summer, to see how it goes.

And let me tell you how it’s gone: I may never have a television in my house again.

I am floored by the changes in my family. I cannot explain the depth of my amazement at what I’ve witnessed.

My son is a new person. He is calmer, more centered, more patient. He is a different child.

As I write this, he and Ava are playing Barbies in the other room. They have been doing so for the last hour. With pretty much no fighting.

I couldn’t make this up.

A couple days ago Rocket woke up at 5am. The whole house was asleep. I hadn’t fallen asleep until 2am, so it was OUT OF THE QUESTION that I would get up with him. My heart sank when I remembered I couldn’t tell him to watch T.V. quietly until I woke up. I told him “Rocket, check it out. I need to sleep. Everybody’s asleep. You need to tiptoe into the living room and play quietly until I wake up.” He said “Okay.” I thought “there is no way in hell this is ever going to work.”

I figured I’d get 10 minutes before he started launching himself off the couch onto something large and squeaky, waking up Georgia and therefore me.

Two hours later, at 7am, I awoke to Rocket holding Georgia by the hand, walking into my room saying “You want to see mama? You want ‘gook’ (nursing)?”

I was aghast. I asked him what he had been doing. He said “playing with my army men.” I almost fell over.

Holy mother of god that never would have happened people EVER EVER EVER.

Here are the other things that have blown my mind:

My kids fight less. They get so bored they actually play with each other.

They get so bored they actually play with their toys.

Ava reads the younger kids stories.

We spend time rolling around on the floor doing absolutely nothing because there’s nothing better to do. Last night we spent an hour on my bed (the 3 kids and I) taking turns making Georgia laugh by putting a book on our head and making it fall.

I thought they would harass and harangue me CONSTANTLY to be entertained. And they did, for the first day or two. And then they got over it. I haven’t heard a single complaint about the T.V. being gone, and I only hear “I’m bored” like once a day. The truth is, I am shocked. I had no idea it would be like this. I really thought the kids would flip out.

The energy in this house is 100% changed. I don’t know why. It just has. It’s like everybody has just been taken down a notch, and everybody’s calmer and more easy-going.


Yes, the house is a new level of messy. Toys are freaking everywhere.

Yes, there’s a lot more talking and singing and noise and playing, all the time. And it gets annoying.

And yes, this may be the best thing we’ve ever done.

An old friend of mine was an physician, trained in traditional Western medicine. Through a series of interesting circumstances, he ended up studying acupuncture in China. He now practices acupuncture and Western medicine, but leans toward acupuncture. When I asked him how he was converted to the practice of acupuncture (as he stuck needles in my ear), especially after all that training in the West, he responded, “I don’t believe in this shit, it just works.”

Yep. Pretty much.

I don’t believe in not having a T.V. But for us, it just works.

Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t some Zen rainbows and flowers and patchouli family all the sudden, but we’re damn better than we were before. And I like what I see…

doing nothing, soon to be wrestling. they do this a lot.

DUDE, WAH? This really happened

Playing BARBIES. This has never occurred before.

14 Comments | Posted in posts not fitting elsewhere. | May 31, 2012
  • Katie Vyktoriah

    I wouldn’t let my son watch TV for the first 6 months he was alive. I was horrified by the other moms in my mommy group who talked about how they sat their babies in their car seats in front of the TV for hours. But when he hit 6 months, I started letting him watch the odd show… then it became a few shows, and pretty soon it was all day long on the cartoon channel.

    He’s 15 months now and gets really pissy if you don’t turn on the TV first thing. I’m really regretting allowing him to watch. I should have stayed firm. I have just made a pretty big move (from the UK to Florida) and think I might just forgo buying a television for a while until I can slowly reintroduce it sometime in the future.

    Glad your family is doing better without it! Gives me hope!! 🙂

  • Jennifer

    A-mazing. I’ve heard this from other parents, too. Something about brain synapses and whatnot. Glad to hear it’s working. On the weeks where my kids lose TV the energy in the house totally changes. I’m just not ready to give it up yet…

  • Shan

    I may show this to my husband. He wouldn’t even need to get out his tools. We have a 10 year old 27 inch screen, two feet front to back mofo.

    Love those photos. Are you sure they weren’t staged? I only ask because Tom will, too. Wanna cover my bases.

  • Stephanie

    Hi, I’m leaving this here because you said you don’t check that email address often. I don’t know if you bought one already (or if you’re going), but I have an earlybird ticket to BlogHer ’12 if you’d like it. It cost me $99. If you don’t have one and you want it, you can just Paypal me the money and I will have the ticket transferred to you. I also have a hotel room reserved. I’d be happy to bequeath that to you as well. Let me know as soon as you’re able so I can make other plans if need be.



  • Roberta Lyons

    It’s kind of like when the power goes out and you get the candles going, build a fire, get out the propane stove, play board games and so on. You want the power to come back on, but when it does, it is sort of disappointing. I love your comment policy by the way. You are one of a kind Janelle. Did I congratulate you on your literary award? If not, congratulations! Well done!

  • JoAnn

    Wow, kind of reminds me when we go up North to the Cabin. Only 2 channels, rabbit ears, and ‘local’ news. We don’t even turn the sucker on because what is outdoors (lake, beach, forrest) is far better. I kind of like having my husband unplugged that week too…we actually read books and talk about it, have interesting discussions. I think we may actually do this. NO T.V.!!! Let Freedom Ring!

  • Emily @ Southerners in SoCal

    Um, amazing. We have just recently started letting my 18-month-old watch a little PBS in the mornings and I can already see it’s a slippery slope into more and more TV time. Curious George is like a gateway drug apparently. Not to mention he’s a little hurricane although I’m sure that has a lot to do with the insane age he’s at. But I’ll definitely be strictly limiting if not banishing TV altogether after this post. Congrats on your zen-like house 🙂

  • Michael Ann

    Wow. Incredibly inspiring. I think we all know deep down that the t.v. isn’t a great thing for kids. And maybe not for adults so much either, but yes, it’s hard to give up. I think it’s great you are seeing so many wonderful changes!!! You are a wonderful mom. You just took a leap of faith and did something HUGE for your kids!

  • Shelly

    We gave up our satellite subscription about 4 years ago and our lives were so much better for it. However, we still watch plenty of shows via Netflix and whatnot, and my 2 1/2 year old looooooves tv. I can see how getting rid of the stupid thing altogether would improve our lives even more, and reading your post inspires me to think more seriously about it. Thank you!

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife

    Dude you give me hope. We cut out cable but have a Boxee & Netflix. I find that we’re watching less and less TV. I’d like to hope we could kick the TV habit most of the time. Baby steps I guess…the husband does not like sudden moments.

  • Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

    We don’t do the t.v. thing in our house unless it is an emergency (like when my daughter was sick for weeks on end and I was loosing my mind!) Anyway, good for you! Amazing huh?

    I saw this post today and thought of you…

  • Father Bassist

    I have never owned a TV in my life. Stopped watching it when I was 14-ish. My wife does not have a television habit either. Our child arrives in about 59 days, and she will be deprived of television also. Thanks for keeping things really real. We support your sans-TV development!


      So she would be deprived from Netflix or Hulu? They seem much simpler than traditional TV.

  • Kendra

    Love this!!!
    I made it easy for myself by simply never having a tv in the first place…
    And, yeah, sometimes it sucks ass to have to just get up at 5am with the kids, but there are so many rewarding moments like the ones you’ve described.
    Plus, my son is so much like your descriptions of Rocket – I just know tv’s not the answer for him…