My babies are already watching TV and they are only 16 months old. I’d love to tell you it’s just a little Baby Einstein now and again but they are already hardcore with an unfortunate affinity for the Wiggles. During every mealtime you will find my babies strapped into their booster seats in front of the TV vacillating from laughing and giggling like little impish maniacs to straight zoning out while eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve admitted publically a tendency to allow my preschool daughter to watch TV and not make a big deal out of exactly how many minutes she logs. A lot of times she, like her mama, likes to have it on as background noise while she colors, runs around the house or tells me stories about who got in trouble for using a “bathroom word” in the classroom. But I didn’t think my twins would be into it so early. But here’s something really crazy: the television during meals is actually a form of therapy. And no, not just for me.
As you know, we’ve tried every trick in the book  to get Sadie our miniature twin to eat like a normal baby. And by normal baby I mean at least take more than one bite of food in any given meal. If you know me and you know my column, you know what a struggle this has been for us from the moment we took her home from the NICU. Despite the g-tube she has which helps her get extra nutrition, mostly overnight; she hasn’t gained an exceptional amount of weight. Funny enough, when I wrote Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay  I distinctly remember advising parents not to worry so much about what their kids eat or don’t eat. At that time, I had a kid with no food issues so I had not experience dealing with one who literally doesn’t eat. Let this be my mea culpa. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand that that advice is not for all parents. And we are definitely not the only exceptions. And so, I’ve worried enough about what Sadie eats and doesn’t eat for an entire worry army. I’ve earned a Silver Star in worry.
Sometimes the parenting “rule book” has to be thrown away completely in order to be the best you can be. I don’t know if there are any hard and fast rules about parenting but I do know that plopping kids in front of the TV for every meal is frowned upon in most circles. But in our family it’s exactly what we need. And if we’re ever going to get rid of the button, the kid’s gotta eat - which leads me to the overconsumption of Wiggles in our living room.
First we tried encouraging Sadie to eat by sitting with her and cheering her on for every bite. When that left her annoyed, we moved to letting her be and just eating what she wanted and quickly removing her tray when she tried to push it away. Fine by her. Not so much for me. So we’d been going a long like this for awhile until one day early last week, the TV was on and I started feeding Sadie from a plate of food while she was in zone mode. She ate more than I’d ever seen her eat apparently because she wasn’t thinking about it. Yes! Exactly the same reason why if you’re overweight you are not supposed to eat mindlessly –just ask my thighs. But you and I are not sixteen pound, sixteen-month-olds! I excitedly told Sadie’s occupational therapist the news the next time she came over and she tried it herself. It worked again. We were then instructed to try it consistently –and by consistently – every meal, everyday for at least a week to see if it makes a difference. Of course her sister gets in on the fun because they eat every meal together (another form of therapy – eating is social!). The good news is it’s working! Sadie’s never eaten more food than she has in the past week. She’s stuffing her face with mac & cheese, shredded cheese, ravioli stuffed with cheese –pretty much anything in the cheese family, but yesterday she even allowed some broccoli! The bad news is I can sing the fucking Wiggles’ theme song in my sleep and have had more than one dream about Captain Feathersword. Let’s never speak of that again, okay?
So yeah, it’s unconventional, but like Lorenzo’s Oil, The Wiggles have been a long sought after remedy for a seemingly unwinnable situation. For that, I’m grateful. At least this week.