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The Time TV Saved Us From An International Incident

By Amalah


Once upon a time, we packed up a 15-month-old and a four-year-old and flew to Jamaica. We survived taxis and three airports and transfers and dubious turkey club sandwiches. By the time we finally arrived in paradise, everybody was hanging on by a tired and very bored thread. Then we rounded a corner and faced the longest customs line known to man. Or, to us anyway. We don’t jetset much, these days. Or ever.

We were not alone in our particular circle of hell — directly ahead and behind us were several families with small children, who were all just as bleary-eyed and antsy and very much unimpressed with their parents’ offerings of baggies of cereal and luggage-crushed Goldfish crackers as ours were. No, they didn’t WANT to stand patiently. Or look at that same sad little book or toy car anymore. Or listen to your tired explanations about time zones or jet lag. They were promised s BEACH. And a POOL. Things that were FUN and did not involve STANDING STILL while you snapped at them for the millionth time to stay put, just stay next to us, and get your face off that filthy floor, oh my GOD.

It took our particular four-year-old all of four minutes to figure out how to unhook the ropes from the queue stanchions and to start designing his very own exit-optional maze out of them. A few feet ahead of us, I saw a father juuuuuust barely prevent a domino effect of knocked-over poles as his tired-to-the-point-hyper kid crashed into one.

I had the baby in a backpack carrier. Every bone and muscle in my body was protesting as I kicked our bags and carseat forward inch by inch and that’s when I noticed my husband — my wonderful, sainted husband — was completely engrossed in something on his phone screen. And I — also being wonderful and sainted — opened my mouth in preparation of LOSING MY EVERLOVING MIND in his general direction, like, a little HELP HERE, with the child-wrangling and entertaining?

Luckily I only managed to emit a few seconds of a high-pitched screech before he handed the phone to our son, whose entire face lit up in the warm glowing warming glow of…an episode of Nick Jr.’s Olivia, accessed directly from our TV at home through the power of…I don’t know. Witchcraft, possibly.

During the next 22 minutes, Noah stood there transfixed, obediently shuffling up a few steps whenever we prompted him, and kindly holding the screen out far enough for his newfound crowd of BFFs who had gathered around him. Like the Pied Piper — or zombies, maybe — every other child in the vicinity had somehow figured out that That Kid There Has Cartoons and inched their way over to see.

A couple other parents blearily asked us questions, like “What is that?” and “How’d you do that?” But most of them just said stuff like, “That’s smart.” We made it to the front of the customs line without incident, and were graciously welcomed into the country…and our hour’s drive to the resort. (Where there was also no TV, but that’s another story.)

Ever since I became a mother, I’ve heard the warning and chiding about “using TV as a babysitter” and relying too heavily on TV and electronic gadgets to keep children entertained. Yes, yes. Too much television is bad for kids. They should all play outside and get fresh air and never spend a single minute standing still via the power of the Video Stare. Blah blah. Sometimes TV does make a pretty damn good babysitter. And sometimes it’s even better than that. Sometimes it’s a parent’s very own personal international peacekeeper.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • liz

    December 29, 2010 at 10:23 am

    God bless the inventors of the DS, and the Internet-capable phones.

  • Olivia

    December 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

    It always warms my heart to hear about other parents allowing screen time and even using it to their advantage. My kid doesn’t have the attention span for the tv to be a tru babysitter, but she likes to play with the remote and likes the noise and music that comes from it. I find it adorable they way she will turn on the tv and bring me the remote when I sit down after dinner.

  • Ally B

    December 29, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Hysterical. My husband and I have heard ourselves say “PLEASE please go watch the show we put on for you!”

  • EW

    December 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Got to say, the iphones and ipad, loaded with a favorite movie and lots and lots of signing time were lifesavers when my kid was in the hospital (five nights when she was 18 months old). We try to limit screen time at home, but when playing isn’t really an option, the screen can be a lifesaver.  I’d also note that all the nurses were very quick to point out that the room had a DVD player and TV.

  • kari Weber

    December 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Genius.  Your husband is a genius.  Perhaps he can give some classes… for other husbands? OR, start his own advice blog where he helps other lost fathers… Please to be starting him in this.

  • Caitlyn

    December 31, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    we brought our signing time dvd with us for the holidays, and it was a lifesaver.  It averted three different meltdowns AND occupied Great-Aunt Lee so everyone could get a break.  Brilliant.

  • andrea

    January 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Doctor’s offices too!  My iphone is a necessity.  

  • Ruth

    January 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Ha! Just today, I stopped a total in-flight meltdown with “Do you want some candy?” TV and chocolate have their purposes.

  • Genevieve

    January 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Friday we had to do a long haul flight home from the UK to the west coast of the US. With two small children. (four and 16 months) My husband wisely put some cartoons on his laptop and while we were stuck in the terminal waiting for our gate to be announced, he kept our son calm with Bugs Bunny. It was in that moment I thanked the higher powers that be for such technology.