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TV hour

Started: 2022-09-19 20:17:37

Submitted: 2022-09-19 21:32:20

Visibility: World-readable

Trying to integrate the kids into evening family entertainment

For the past couple of years (until a few weeks ago) our evening routine most nights has been:

  • At 18:00 or 18:30: sit down to supper
  • After supper, Julian clears the dishes and utensils from the place settings, and Calvin clears the rest of the table, including wiping and drying the place mats and table
  • At 19:00, I started reading to Julian
  • Around 19:30, I put Julian to bed and play a single song on his iPad
  • At 20:00, Kiesa, Calvin, and I do something with Calvin. Depending on the day of the week:
    • On Friday night, we watch a movie;
    • On Saturday night, we play a board game;
    • The rest of the week, we watch a TV show, usually a genre drama if we can find a good one to watch.

Now that Julian's seven years old, in second grade, it seemed like we ought to include him in more of our family evening routine. The easiest part to integrate him into was the Saturday game night. He has been playing board games for years, and we've introduced more complicated (and more interesting) games. On our first official game night we played Settlers of Catan; then on following weeks we played Azul and Splendor and Cities and Knights of Catan. He hasn't won yet, but he does seem to be enjoying himself, and he understands the rules of fairly complicated games well enough to play.

Julian and Kiesa play Settlers of Catan
Julian and Kiesa play Settlers of Catan

The next family evening activity that we tried to integrate Julian into was evening TV. Once we finished watching Sandman with Calvin, we added Julian and started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, on the theory that it ought to be a good starting point for the Star Trek franchise. (We started watching TNG with Calvin the summer before third grade.) I used the TNG rewatch on tor.com as my guide to the first season's best episodes (or, because it was the first season, the episodes that were the least bad). It seemed like we hadn't quite met the mark; it wasn't clear that he had the attention span to watch an entire 45-minute-long drama without getting up and doing jumping jacks "for exercise". By the time we made it half-way through the first season (which meant skipping half of the episodes because they were terrible) Julian had lost interest in TNG, but still seemed like he wanted to watch some TV.

Our next attempt was She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which was considerably closer to Julian's speed (and the episodes were closer to twenty minutes long, which was well within Julian's attention span). We got most of the way through the first season before he decided he wanted to watch something else; and because we didn't have any great ideas we watched the first thing that came up on Netflix, which happened to be an arbitrary season of The Great British Baking Show. It's unclear whether he actually likes this, but he does seem to be amused at least.

Julian watches Encounter at Farpoint
Julian watches Encounter at Farpoint

We had just as much trouble trying to integrate Julian into Friday movie night. More than once we watched a bunch of trailers and he seemed uninterested in all of them. (Julian is not yet very good at telling us what he wants, only that he doesn't like the choices we're proposing.) So far, on consecutive weekends, we've watched The Incredibles, Vivo, and The Mitchells Versus The Machines. Julian now expects to be included in Friday movie night, but we're still working out the process for how to select movies we all want to watch.

(It's also clear that our kids are different people, even at the same age. When he was younger than Julian is now, Calvin would sneak out of his room at night to sit on the stairs and watch movies; we think he saw Mad Max: Fury Road this way. He also rented multiple Harry Potter movies on Apple TV, because I left myself signed into my iTunes account because it was a serious hassle to type my password, one character at a time, on the joystick the remote.)

I'm sure we'll figure out how to integrate Julian into our evening family entertainment, but it'll take some effort to get the details right.

If you want to kiss the sky, you had better learn how to kneel.
- U2, "Mysterious Ways"