the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Raising an addict

Monday afternoon after spending several hours with Jon’s family we drove 45-minutes to my father’s house. During the entire trip Leta whined that she wanted to watch Elmo. “Do you see a television anywhere in this car?” I asked, and she would wait a few seconds and whine again as if to say, “I don’t see how that is relevant to this conversation.”

By the time we had spent a few hours with my father, Leta had been without television for over nine hours and she couldn’t wait to go home to her shows. As we gathered our things she grabbed my hand and sang, “Go home and watch Sesame Street! Orrrrrrrrrrr Teletubbies! Orrrrrrrrrrr Boobah! Orrrrrrrrrrr News!” Each “or” was stretched like a rubber band to emphasize THE POSSIBILITIES, MY GOD.

Jon and I shook our heads at both the tone of her excitement — the options were blowing her mind — and the fact that she was so happy to be headed back to the television that it didn’t matter what she watched, she’d even settle for a little news. How desperate does a kid have to be that she’d forego Elmo for Brian Williams just so that she can warm herself by the light of a cathode ray? All her veins have collapsed, but she needs the drugs bad enough that she’s willing to inject the needle under the nail of her big toe.

As I strapped her into her seat she was still listing off shows when she looked over and saw the bag of emergency goodies we had packed for the day away from home. When she spotted a bag of M&M’s her focus shifted instantly, and she shouted, “I eat M&M’s! Orrrrrrrrrrr gummy bears! Orrrrrrrrrrr cookies!” Her brain could barely wrap itself around the opportunities.

I climbed into the seat in front of her, craned my head around the neck rest and said with a shrug, “How about nope! Orrrrrrrrrrr nuh-uh! Orrrrrrrrrrr not a chance!”

  • Stacey

    2006/06/01 at 6:46 am

    Oh man does THAT sound familiar.


    “Tele Tubs?”


  • Kit

    2006/06/01 at 6:22 am

    I watched tv all the time when I was a young’n. I chose to watch game shows instead of cartoons, but whatever, I could read before everyone else my age. I was quite scared when I started kindergarten because I couldn’t watch The Price is Right anymore. My daily line-up included, in addition to TPIS: Wheel of Fortune (the daytime version, sans Pat Sajak), Jeopardy, Scrabble, & Classic Concentration. I also watched classic sitcoms like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie. I’m scared to think of what I would watch on daytime tv if I were a child now.

  • The Bold Soul

    2006/05/31 at 11:15 am

    As long as she doesn’t start begging to watch Pat Robertson, I guess it’s OK if she’s addicted enough to TV to prefer watching the news to NOT having TV.

    I distinctly recall as a child being told to get out of the house and go play outdoors… but then again in those days, TV was limited to what, 8 or 9 channels in the pre-cable/satellite/Ninentdo/Playstation/VCR/DVD days? TV was something special we got to do in the evenings after homework or on weekends or when something special like the “Wizard of Oz” was being broadcast — just once a year! Somehow we all managed to survive without 24×7 television access. And something tells me we were a lot thinner, then, too.

  • SydneyDawn

    2006/05/31 at 9:31 am

    HAHAHA. That last line sounds like something that would come out of my mouth.

    Leta’s a doll.

  • jolie

    2006/05/31 at 9:32 am

    and yet… she didn’t request the dog whisperer. strange.

  • tarable

    2006/05/31 at 9:22 am

    Thank you for making my day. I thought we were the only ones raising an addict.

  • SueFromOhio

    2006/05/31 at 9:22 am

    You should probably avoid advertising her addiction to the boob tube since all the crazies are going to flog you for allowing it…HAHAHAA And ‘they’ say Crack is bad for you 😉

  • HDC

    2006/05/31 at 9:25 am

    Brain Williams eh?

    My two month old is already on the addict path. How elseam I supposed to get his laundry done?

  • Allbeehive

    2006/05/31 at 9:28 am

    This makes me want to go home, eat a snickers, or popcorn, or an energy bar and rewatch the season finale of whatever I have on Tivo. Oh wait, I’m an adult.

  • Urs

    2006/05/31 at 9:28 am

    brian williams? dear god, if she has to watch the news at least giver her anderson cooper!

  • jacks

    2006/05/31 at 9:29 am

    After reading this post, I think I’m an addict, too.

  • lmmom

    2006/05/31 at 9:29 am

    When my oldest was very young, we were able to keep him from junk food up until about 18 months. We went to a family party and although he had never seen one in his life, he dove headlong into a bowl of Cheetos. Up he comes with a big grin, covered in Cheetle up to the elbows. So much for ‘if he doesn’t know it, he won’t want it’.

    The TV had been part of his life from day one. We’re all addicts – am I not reading and typing this?????

  • leahpeah

    2006/05/31 at 9:29 am

    make her hold out for the crack and make her say it nicely.

  • Meepers

    2006/05/31 at 9:30 am

    As someone who did not have TV in the house till age three or four – let me tell you – age doesn’t matter in the TV addiction or not. In the last six years (since I’ve been married/had cable) I’ve made up for lost time. Someday Leta and I can be in TV-Anonymous together maybe, no? Orrrrrrrrr not.

  • Dr. To You

    2006/05/31 at 9:35 am

    Leta is as bad as my kid. As soon as he gets into the car, he yells for the DVD player to come down.

    I’m a David Gregory fan myself. Something about a 6’4″ man dancing to Hilary Duff….

  • BabyKEsq

    2006/05/31 at 9:37 am

    I had a run in with a similarly minded two year old on Monday. Her and her parents had been in the mountains without TV for the whole weekend and when I saw her on her way home she was struggling to get out of her car seat desperately chanting, “Dora. Ayuda. Ayuda. Dora! Dora! Ayuda! Doooorraaaaaa!”

  • Heather

    2006/05/31 at 9:37 am

    My kids think that as soon as we enter a store they must have food in their mouths. I have to warn them before we leave that I’m not bringing anything or I risk dealing with a meltdown. And my girls ask me to take a shower in the morning, so they can watch their shows.

  • sweetney

    2006/05/31 at 9:38 am

    TV good. also see my comment here:

    your post is timely, woman!

  • mamaphunk

    2006/05/31 at 9:39 am

    Lady. Seriously.

    You’ve gotta stop posting adorable stuff like this.

    I’m engaged, my Mother said she won’t pay for the wedding if I’m with child and you posting crap like this makes me really weigh the decision.

  • Tiggerlane

    2006/05/31 at 9:39 am

    Do I sense the Armstrongs shopping soon for an in-car DVD?

    For those of us who have now become addicted to Leta videos, you know we’re going to expect some audio/visual documentation of the stretched “or” beast.

    Orrrrrrrrrr Chuck.

  • Mindola

    2006/05/31 at 9:48 am

    Leta and my husband obviously have some things in common…….

    He sounds just like this when I let him off his leash in Home Depot.

  • Faith

    2006/05/31 at 9:54 am

    Dude…I love my addiction to television. Love it, love it, love it. I’ve been fostering it for a lo-hoooong time now, and am proud to say that no other addictions have been able to conquer my resolve the way t.v. has.

    Just a warning, I’m a fat 32-year-old. Not sure if that has anything to do with my love for t.v., but it’s a fact. (I watch t.v. while I walk on my treadmill 4 times a week…and in fact I walk more in the evenings now so I can have “better t.v. to watch” while I do it. Yeah, I don’t have a problem…)

    But I am an otherwise healthy, well-balanced, and well-informed girl, and would encourage any parent to allow their child to watch as much t.v. as possible growing up. How else will they know when things like Brangelina’s baby being born occurs?

  • wordnerd

    2006/05/31 at 9:55 am

    it’s pretty wild that at her tender age that she’d grasp the concept of choice to this extent. amazing.

  • Thérèse

    2006/05/31 at 9:57 am


    Ohhh, you know she’s gonna be one of those people who bounces around in her chair when she’s excited about anything and everything. Even when she’s 25. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • wenhaver

    2006/05/31 at 9:59 am

    My kid is an addict too. He goes nuts whenever he hears the Law & Order theme song. I get him to go to bed by saying “you want to watch a movie?”. He’s 20 months old.

    There’s a Simpsons quote that goes something like “I watched a lot of TV growing up and I grew up TV”. Our son is growing up TV alright…

  • Kristine

    2006/05/31 at 10:00 am

    Xanax orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Excedrin PM orrrrrrrrrrrrr a glass of wine orrrrrrrrrr …. yeah, sounds like my night time routine.

    I went to church camp and after a week my mother said, “You know…I think Eddie Murphy’s RAW came out last week…wanna go to the video store?”

  • ktjane

    2006/05/31 at 10:02 am

    ahhahaha! you are the coolest mom! leta will appreciate your sense of humor someday. probably not until after the teen years when you’ll be so not funny, but like when she is 27.

  • jes

    2006/05/31 at 10:07 am

    I imagine that when you responded to her, she cocked her head to the side and gave you a blank stare.

  • Shooters Station

    2006/05/31 at 10:08 am

    And her response… yes! ooooorrrrrrrrr absolutely! ooooorrrr sure! orrrrrrrrrrrr now!

  • Kristen in Colorado

    2006/05/31 at 10:09 am

    You know, Teletubbies is a pretty bizarre show, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to Boobah in the creepy department. I just don’t get the appeal. Some night when I’m having trouble sleeping, as if trapped in the Twilight Zone, I hear the warbly, spooky, sing-song, “Booooo – Bahhhhhhhh-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahh”

  • Maniacal

    2006/05/31 at 10:12 am

    My daughter is 8 months old and she already like TV. Especially Boobah, orrrrrrrrr Big Big World orrrrrrrr Dragon Tales!

    Should we NOT let them watch? They are educational…hey you said it yourself, Leta learned her letters, right?

  • Rbelle

    2006/05/31 at 10:15 am

    I just posted a question to my mom readers about kids and television… my son is also an addict, unfortunately to the Wiggles. I am so happy when he asks to watch “Thomas” (the train) or “SCOOBY DOO!” because it is one more step away from the Wiggles.

  • Meg

    2006/05/31 at 10:17 am

    Oh lord. You sound exactly like my mom. And that’s awesome.

  • Karen Rani

    2006/05/31 at 10:18 am

    Once again, reading your blog makes me realize I am not alone in raising my children with high doses of sarcasm. It puts hair on their chest.

  • Annejelynn

    2006/05/31 at 10:19 am

    my personal favorite response to a child’s ridiculous request is “sooo not gunna happen.”

  • Jon Z.

    2006/05/31 at 10:23 am

    Before my son was born, I remember my saying something to my wife about how I didn’t even want him to know what a TV was until he was school age.


    He turns three in a week and a half, and the only people he knows as well as his mother and I are a little cartoon chick named Dora, her cousin Diego, Elmo, the three freaks from “The Doodlebops,” the annoying cast of “Hi 5” (whose insipid jingles he can sing verbatim), the “Little Einsteins” crew, and his latest love, the bizarre, sensory-overload, potentially age-inappropriate “Lazytown.”

    Incidentally, he can also recite the entire starting lineup for the Boston Red Sox and identify each player on sight, and, no, I swear, I didn’t train him, he just kept asking “Who’s that? Who’s that?”

    These are all programs he graduated to after months of “Baby Einstein” videos … and if it were not for the availability of the television as a distraction during those wee hours of the morning when he first wakes up (like, 5 a.m., daily), or as a way to wind him down before story time (a ritual known as “last show”), or for those moments when mommy and/or daddy woud like to do something exotic, such as evacuate our bladders or bowels without an audience, well, we’d have probably been institutionalized by now.

    I’m pretty sure Madonna has said that she doesn’t let her kid watch TV. Well, give me a half-billion dollars and a full-time staff to manage my life (to include a team of nannies) and I could probably keep ours away from the boob tube, too. Until then, I say, “Viva el Nickelodeon!”

  • Lynnlaw

    2006/05/31 at 10:24 am

    Ahhh…to be a kid again! When everything is new and exciting. I adore that she mentioned THE NEWS! That is hysterical. I grew up addicted to TV and I live a pretty productive life, good family and tons of friends. I think she’ll be fine.

  • Jennifer Schutz

    2006/05/31 at 10:27 am

    When I was little we were allowed to watch 1 show per day. To make it worse, that 1 show was always ninja turtles (and later, sports) because I have two brothers and 2 outnumbers 1.

    Now that I have my own house and TV, the first thing I do when I get home is turn it on, even if I’m not watching. To me, the sound of a silent house is depressing. The sound of a TV on in the background is my symbol of freedom, and Oh, how I celebrate it.

    So, you’re probably doing Leta a huge favor by letting her get her TV indulgence out of the way early! Especially if she will watch news… that’s a win-win situation, because everyone knows that news is educational.

  • KatsMom

    2006/05/31 at 10:34 am

    I was just struggling to get my daughter away from the tube. So we came up to the office and I’m surfing for a moment and she’s drawing. We’re headed outside after this. But it won’t be long before she is asking me “Did we miss Lazytown?” Nevermind that we’ve seen every episode 9 times…doesn’t matter. Knowing if we have or have not missed Lazytown is the way we gauge if we have had a good day.

    Love your blog. I’m trying to decide if we are going to have number 2 also. I too feel as though I am just getting the hang of this mothering thing. I have a feeling that two little ones will throw me for a loop. But who could have predicted I would love my daughter the way I do…Ahhhh.. And so we keep contemplating.

  • Pioneer Woman

    2006/05/31 at 10:35 am

    My oldest learned her alphabet from Barney. She could read before her two cousins, whose snooty parents used to berate me for allowing such garbage into my child’s brain. Their two kids, by the way, STILL can’t read!!!
    Ha! Joke’s on them.

  • Jennifer in Kansas City

    2006/05/31 at 10:36 am

    I can’t wait for the “Hi! We’re Nuts!” letters to start, telling you that it’s only proper to feed Leta homemade wheat germ and carob trail mix with organic flax seed, or instead of TV (news! So funny!), why aren’t you building your own small theater and giving her marionette and puppet shows. With handmade costumes. And expertly designed programmes.
    Because, REALLY. It’s the least you can do.

  • Cauri

    2006/05/31 at 10:40 am

    i LOVE that she listed news!! Haha that poor deprived child!

  • rivetergirl

    2006/05/31 at 10:40 am

    Yes, the enthusiasm of the addict. It warms a mama’s heart.

    There is a lot of debate over whether kids should watch TV … and eat candy for that matter.I’m firmly of the camp that whatever the parents want and can live with works for me.

    I grew up watching TV (lots of TV) and my kid watches TV … and she’s reading exponentially beyond her grade.

  • CartwheelsAtMidnight

    2006/05/31 at 10:43 am

    Life has such promise when you’re two! Now I’m working on… I can watch Ellen… Orrrrr… do laundry! Orrrrrrr… clean the attic! Orrrrr… go to the gym! I am so jealous!

    BTW – Great photo for today. I love her expression.

  • MelanieinOrygun

    2006/05/31 at 10:45 am

    Gotta love these years. I always used to chant “Ooooooh the selection! Ooooooh the variety!” at my girls when they’d get into these little monologues about their options.
    I take it you are using the ol’ “offer a choice rather than a yes/no scenario” method? Or is Leta already past the “NO to everything” stage?

  • anagrama

    2006/05/31 at 10:54 am

    you are evil.
    i’m sorry, i don’t mean that…
    it’s just…
    i’m very hungry, and have lived without a tv for 6 months.
    so my empathy has been compromised

    ¡love the blg!

  • Les

    2006/05/31 at 11:00 am

    As parents we do anything for a little peace and quiet now and again. My twins are only 18 months and aren’t into TV yet. But Evan who is 3 on the 11th June loves watching it.
    In the UK the big children’s programs are ‘Fireman Sam’, ‘Bob the builder’ and the old classic ‘Postman pat’. Do you have any of these in the US?

    I wrote a little on my Blog about this last week here

    Keep up the good work – I’m reading everyday now!


  • GeekDaddy

    2006/05/31 at 11:00 am

    LOL! I thought my family was the only one who packed like you 🙂 Reminds me of a trip we took long ago, detailed here:

    When my family drove down to Orlando, we took the middle seat out of the minivan and put in a TV/VCR combination. My three year old thought he had died and gone to heaven. Between that and playing with his older brother’s old GameBoy (He didn’t care that he didn’t know how to play the game. He pushed buttons and it made noises and did stuff on the screen) it was the quietest road trip we’ve taken in a long time.

  • Logan

    2006/05/31 at 11:16 am

    I’m loving how “Raising an Addict” coincides with a daily photo that looks like Leta could have just smoked a bowl.

  • Fireflower

    2006/05/31 at 11:18 am

    Love this, the tv thing is starting to become of greater interest here because the kidlet’s paying attention. Oh, for the infant days when the DoinkDoink on Law & Order would instantly soothe the colic and send her to sleep. She’s now watching lots of sitcoms and lots and lots of morning news shows. Without the tv, I’d go completely bugfuck.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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