Carolyn Hax: DIL irritated by TV watching
Dear Carolyn: I am an older woman, and not very mobile. I moved in with my son’s family following an injury. They have been very helpful and supportive.
There is only one chair that I can get up from unassisted, in the living room. In the evenings, I like to watch TV there. I really have limited options of other things I can do. My daughter-in-law is resentful about my TV use.
When I was raising my son, our custom was to keep the TV on pretty much all of the time. My daughter-in-law has told me many times that she wants to keep the TV off pretty much all of the time. She won’t spend any time in the living room when the TV is on (even with the volume down). I’m not watching anything offensive, just game shows and network shows. She doesn’t bring up the TV often, but I can tell by her expressions that the TV bothers her.
My son got me a TV for my room, but I don’t want to be off by myself all of the time. He also got me a recording device so I can watch my shows when my daughter-in-law is at work, but I don’t understand how to use it. My son has tried to get my daughter-in-law to respect my TV watching, but I think it is causing some conflict between them. She is very stubborn.
How can I get my daughter-in-law to relax about my TV watching? Having the TV on didn’t seem to hurt my son when he was growing up. I don’t think it’s going to hurt my grandkids. – J.
Given how you’ve dug yourself in against adapting, the daughter-in-law isn’t alone in her stubbornness.
I am sympathetic; I’m sure you’d prefer not to need your son and his family, and to be able to hop about the house at will. Independence dies hard.
However, you’re quick to dismiss the efforts (and expenditures) your family has made to compromise on the TV. And, you’re also quick to attribute your daughter-in-law’s stance to her character, instead of considering that, just as you have concrete reasons for wanting the TV on, she might have concrete reasons for wanting it off.
For example: Even at a low volume, the TV is aural clutter, which annoys some people. It involves flickering light, also an irritant to some. (Game shows = flashy and noisy.) And, further, when the TV is on, it takes a room that might otherwise be used for many purposes – conversation, hobbies, reading – and co-opts it for a single purpose: watching TV.
Your daughter-in-law could be generosity incarnate and still see TV as a blight.
So, Suggestion 1: Lay off her. She opened her home and private life to you, and her preferences matter.
Suggestion 2: Have your son program the device to record your shows, so you’ll need only to learn how to access them. I realize you’re fighting a lifelong habit. However, watching when you’re alone is the perfect, cooperative solution, and you owe it to this family to embrace it.
Third: Since you want the company, stay in the living room as people come home, TV off, with magazines, puzzles, crafts, anything you needn’t plug in. In this home, that’s the inclusive move.
E-mail Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m.each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.