Buy one, get one free

TV babies Lebanon

Buy one, get one free

It’s rare I can actually understand billboards in Arabic. It’s a bit like humour I guess, it demands more than my basic conversational level. So I was quite happy to finally work an easy one out.

Literally it means “[One] TV on you, and the second on us” – that is, Buy one TV get one free. Naive ascetic that I am, I commented to my better half that it would work well if you paired up with a friend. Don’t be silly, he told me, Most people want an extra TV for the bedroom, sometimes several. Then he told me about the electrician we had round recently to fix some bits and pieces. The electrician had wanted to sell us a TV with a mirrored screen. When the telly’s off it just looks like a mirror. Which sounds all right as a way to disguise it when not in use. But he was selling it as an ideal installation for not just the living room but also the bathroom. Great for when you’re shaving, he said. Now it seems to me if you can’t do without television while you brush your teeth or shave, then you have a bigger problem than finding a decorative technique to hide your fear of being alone with your thoughts!

It’s true that there was no telly in my house when I was little, and by coincidence the same applies for my husband. Neither of our parents made rules about watching it at friends’ or relatives’ homes though. I guess I can be quite puritanical about telly for small kids. When the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  says babies under two shouldn’t watch TV at all, I agree. And when I read an article in a Lebanese mother and baby magazine citing these guidelines but then suggesting they are impossible to apply and that every mum needs an occasional break like when they are making dinner or having a shower (so twice every day?), I’m flabbergasted. Especially as these magazines are addressed at a middle class readership almost all of whom have a live-in maid, whether or not the mother works. Ever wish there were more hours in the day?  That’s an extra 60 hours’ of labour a week doing housework, errands and keeping your kids entertained when they are tired and ratty. Not to mention the benefit of extended family when it comes to getting the odd babysitting stint or a tupperware of dinner, which have to be two of the top perks for Mediterranean families.

Of course I’m biased given my upbringing, which is why I was interested to see this mother’s take on it, as she’s a self-confessed former TV addict. Many people feel TV is a good way for kids to learn extra languages. Her kids are trilingual and manage fine with just occasional online videos like on YouTube. I particularly like the way she concludes: “If they get to watch three of these videos, they think I’m very kind and generous, but they will last no more than 20 minutes in total!”

The irony is, I’m actually considering finding some Lebanese soap as a way to practice my Arabic while Beirut baby is safely in bed. Since I’m stuck indoors at nap time anyway, and Lebanese dialect can’t easily be studied on paper like a written language can, maybe a daily series could help. Anyone know of a lunchtime soap, especially one of those repetitive ones with exaggerated characters where you could almost guess the dialogue on mute?  Because that’s more or less what I’ll be doing.