We have about 4000 books in our house. This is because I threw out so many over the years. At one point I was moving from Chicago to LA to Boston to LA and on and on with nothing but 80 boxes of books.
Each time a truck lost a box or too I’d realize that I didn’t need those books anyway.
And then I realized that my great grandpa only collected books because he was making his fortune defending Al Capone and his cronies and my great grandpa wanted to look highbrow.
And then I realized that my great grandpa had a porn collection that he passed on to my dad, who passed it on to me, and who cares if Rockwell Kent is both talented and obsessed with penises when all I could think of when I looked at those books was my dad sexually abusing me.
And then I realized that first editions sell for a lot. So I funded a year of writing my memoir of escaping my family by selling porn my family had bequeathed to me.
Which is why I only have 4000 books in our house now.
People always say to me: “Did you read all these?” And my answer is always yes.
I used to think it was because I was a latchkey kid with no TV. But it turns out that left to their own devices, with a TV in the house, kids don’t watch that much TV. Parents do.
HAHAHAHAHAHA I love this statistic. And I got it from this totally fun interactive chart. Click it to see how Americans spend their time, broken down by days of the week and demographically-significant groups.
So first of all it doesn’t matter if you have a TV in the house or not. If your kid likes to read, your kid will read. I know this because I was removed from my house and placed with my grandparents, and they had a TV that I never watched. They had a porch, looking out over peonies and bonsai and it spent my days on the 1950s vinyl sofa reading anything I could find.
Second of all, I think we need to accept that what parents fear most for their kids is what we fear most for ourselves. If you spend tons of time watching TV you will worry that your kid does. If you are fat you’ll worry that your kid will be fat.
I can tell you what you’d be like if you were like me, and you never watched TV: you’d give your kids unlimited TV because it doesn’t seem like a threat to you.
When we look at the ways we restrict our kids, we should ask, “Is this about me or my kids?” Because self-directed learning is when each person in the family deals with what feels urgent and important to them. Not to someone else, especially not only the adults.