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Our New Year switch-off – The Man in the Middle

It’s New Year’s Day and everyone is slouching in front of the TV. Only the TV is off, because one of Wife’s New Year resolutions is that the family should watch less TV. 

She hasn’t quantified exactly how many hours of TV that means we can watch this year or how it’s going to be monitored. Nor are we clear if we will each get our own allocation of hours or if there is just one giant family budget to draw down on. 

Son suggests we use a model like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme with each of us getting a fixed number of TV hours at the start of the year which we can use up or trade with each other.

It’s like carbon offsetting…

‘It’s carbon offsetting only with TV hours instead of carbon units. It will create a more flexible model better suited to the TV viewing needs of each individual member of the family while capping our household TV consumption.’  

Daughter asks if she can sell all her TV units now because she is back at university next week so can’t be expected to participate in the scheme if she is not here. She could also do with the money.

‘I don’t think the trade would be financial,’ I say, remembering the trauma when the children tried to trade stamps with each other. 

‘I’d be happy to act as the trading platform. Keep tabs on the hours. Track trades. Though I may need some seed capital to underwrite the initial start-up costs,’ says Son.  

Mother’s tuned in

Mother hasn’t said anything yet. But she’s tuned in. I think she is trying to understand if the proposed cap on TV might actually be serious. If so, we can expect a fight. Clearly, her TV consumption can’t be included under our family’s TV Viewing Cap even if she is the largest consumer in the house. Asking her to cut back her TV consumption is as pointless as asking the Chinese to stop building coal powered generators.

‘Shall we discuss it all over a beer down the pub?’ I say trying to break the conversation up before things get tricky.  

‘I thought you were doing Dry January?’ says Wife. 

Eleven hours into the New Year and I’ve already forgotten my only New Year’s resolution. The first sign of family difficulty and my sub-conscious is ordering a session IPA. 

‘You’re right. But I’ll have something non-alcoholic.’

‘Let’s stay here, put the fire on and do something together. The Quiz of the Year or a puzzle, perhaps?’ 

The children groan. Mother is silently assessing the situation. 

It’ll be like the old days

‘Like the old days,’ Wife appeals. 

‘In the old days, we’d have watched a movie together. Now we can never find something we all want to watch,’ says Son. 

‘No TV. Until tonight. That’s that,’ says Wife, picking up the TV remote with a fierce grip. It’s clear it will be a fight to the death if anyone tries to take it off her. 

‘Quite right,’ says Mother, in an overly stern voice. ‘No TV till tonight. It’s bad for you.’

Quite why Mother’s so keen on backing Wife’s ‘No TV’ policy is not immediately obvious. But she admires decisive parenting even though she herself was laissez-faire as a parent. 

‘If only I’d been as strong willed with you and your brother about the TV. You both watched far too much of it. Planet of the Apes and all that other rubbish. I blame your father he was never firm enough with you.’

Wife’s ‘NO TV’ resolution has reminded Mother of identical ones she issued years ago to curb my excessive youthful TV habits.

Wife quickly hides her face behind the newspaper. Daughter runs for the kitchen her eyes crinkled up. I think she’s crying with laughter. Son is googling something.

‘Planet of the Apes. 1968. Charlton Heston. It’s on tonight. Nice one, Granny. How about it everyone? We’ve finally found something even Dad will like.’

The Man in the Middle writes our funny, thoughtful blog series. Musings from a middle-aged man living with his aged Mother and the Family.

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