Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: The Big Turnoff

In honor of Earth Week and the Great TV Rebellion 2010, I thought it would be a good time to offer a review of one of my favorite parenting books, The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid by Ellen Currey-Wilson.

In this startlingly honest memoir, Currey-Wilson invites readers to share her most intimate thoughts in a way that few of us would, even with our dearest friends. From the dysfunctional family where she grew up, to the jealousy she feels when two members of her playgroup start spending time together without her, to the time she offered a friend’s psychologist husband sexual favors (in front of her friend!) if he would give her “the answers” to the battery of psychological tests her son Casey was about to undergo, the author is willing to bare her most embarrassing secrets in a way that makes the reader fall in love with her quirky neuroticism.

Though the story is set around the author’s efforts to protect her son from exposure to television despite her lifelong addiction to the medium, TV can be seen as a metaphor for many of the alternative lifestyle choices that many of us make. Currey-Wilson struggles with both the philosophy and the practice of keeping her son TV-free: How will she find a babysitter who does not just plop Casey in front of the tube? How much should she reveal to her friends and family about her decision to eschew Sesame Street and Arthur? Can she reveal her son’s media-free status at all without sounding like a judgmental zealot? Will other parents consider it a burden to host TV-free playdates so that her son can attend? Will he be an outcast at school because he does not know who Pokemon is and does not own a Wii? Who among us has not asked ourselves these same questions about some of our own unconventional parenting choices?

Currey-Wilson’s example stands as an inspiration to those of us who sometimes tire of the pressure to “fit in” that we endure as we make choices for our families that are outside the mainstream. Her story also gives readers the courage to parent consciously, to face our own pasts, to ask the hard questions of ourselves that will make us better parents and better people.

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