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In late 1999, my lovely bride, Heidi, and I found out that after nearly six years of waiting we were going to be parents for the first time. A 2000 baby! We were so excited we could barely stand it (in between morning sickness and bouts of sheer terror). Both of us were full of joy and yet a bit weak in the knees at the prospect of bringing a precious new life into the world.

It's natural, I suppose, to begin thinking about the past when the future comes calling. I found myself drifting back to my childhood and the way my parents so patiently and diligently walked alongside me as I bounded through the forests of childhood and adolescence, onto the plains of adulthood.

One incident stands out. I was a blissfully boisterous 5-year-old, bouncing around the house singing the theme from Popeye at the top of my little lungs. Mom was listening. She was also thinking how much she would rather hear her son singing "Jesus Loves Me" than a song from a TV cartoon. The longer she thought, the closer drew my "doom." And then it happened. The family television was given a new home—the closet. After I sneaked it into my room to watch it again, it disappeared altogether.

I sat down with my mother recently and asked her why she and Dad wrenched me from that flickering tube. Her reply was almost frightening in its simplicity, particularly now that television has acquired such a stranglehold on so many homes. "When I saw that this was something that you were emulating, or copying," she told me, "alarms went off inside my head. I thought to myself, 'If he's going to sing about Popeye rather than the choruses he learns in Sunday school, we've got a problem.'"

I realize that may sound harsh, but she was right—not that I thought so at the time. Boy, did I chafe under what seemed to be a grossly unfair deprivation. As I got older, all the other kids at school would chatter endlessly about what they had seen on TV the night before. I would mumble agreements under my breath trying to pretend I had watched whatever it was too, embarrassed at how completely out of touch I was.

Of course, statistics on Americans' television habits were appalling even then. Now they are downright ludicrous. So it was a courageous thing my parents did when they threw out the TV. And it created dividends for us that were greater than any of us knew. It forced us to do all the things that families are supposed to do. Eat together. Play together. Work together. Pray together. Besides, I think I read every book the public library had. Some of them twice. My brother and I never had to make a decision between TV and homework. I never stayed indoors glued to the screen when the weather was prime for adventure. I never had to witness the thousands of violent acts that most of my classmates experienced. I never saw any of the fake sensuality that has twisted and molded so many teens' perceptions of sex. And we never heard the profanity that has since become epidemic in prime time.

Oddly enough—or maybe it isn't so odd at all—my career and my calling now involve writing and editing television reviews. I think part of why I do it is to pay my parents back for their wisdom and insight by helping other families make wise choices too. Very few will literally throw away their TV sets, but I'm living proof that even such an extreme act will not scar a child for life. On the contrary, it can reap incalculable rewards. I don't regret a second of my TV-less childhood. Not for a minute do I lament being "deprived."

By the way, Heidi and I had a little girl. She has grown into a bright, creative young lady not the least bit consumed with what's on the tube. I still recall praying, as a new dad, that I would have the strength to make the same godly choices my own parents did. The Lord has helped me do just that. And we're all better for it.

Published April 2011