THE kids watch about an hour-and-a-half of TV a day. I know this is terrible and will turn them into dole cheats, exotic dancers or serial killers, but I don't care.
If you have four children and only two of them have any interest in sleeping, you will approach the edge of insanity on a regular basis. The electric nanny is often the only means of everyone getting a little break. Yeah, I know all about reading to them and family activities, but the reality is that if you stick six people in a house, someone will be rubbing someone else up the wrong way a lot of the time.
The TV puts an end to all the interaction that causes these problems. Suddenly, instead of three children struggling against each other, you have three children, each with their own individual relationship with the telly.
It goes on twice a day usually, once after homework for 20 minutes, then another hour before bed. Like in most houses, bedtime tends to be the part of the day which is most likely to collapse into anger and tears. With neither baby nor toddler sleeping well, by 8pm, I'm dragging myself around like a corpse and my temper is on edge.
You know the reason why kids had it so tough in the old days? No TV. The only reason they were sent down mines or up chimneys was so their parents could get a break from them.
I know kids' TV these days is mostly rubbish. There's no show that doesn't have some message about sharing or not telling lies. There's no show as beautifully chaotic as Tom and Jerry. Tom tried to get Jerry. He failed. What did we learn? Nothing! Did we enjoy it? Absolutely.
The other great thing about letting them watch TV is that it develops their negotiating skills. Conor wants Peppa Pig, Mike wants a programme which features something eating something else. Annie usually wants something with music in it. They have to work it out between them what they watch. Surely there are all sorts of life skills being learned there?
Cathy started out a great baby. Sleeping through the night after about six weeks. Four months later, she likes to get up around 4am for a couple of hours. On the upside, it means I'm getting to watch loads of rugby World Cup without my wife and kids ganging up on me. Usually, if there's a match I really want to see, I have to warn them all in advance so they can prepare themselves for my emotional absence during that period. There will be no toast buttered, no nappies changed, no paintings admired, no Calpol administered.
Any child is welcome to watch with me and I will explain all that's going on, if I understand it myself. Inevitably, the kid will get bored and shuffle off my lap within five minutes.
But it's hardly ideal. International rugby beats infomercials about getting ripped in six weeks, but at this stage, I'd take the sleep over the TV any day.