Nobody said bringing up children is easy.
Still, there's a tendency to look for an easy answer to why it can sometimes be very hard.
As Captain Kangaroo was saying yesterday at the General Mills American Family Forum at the Capital Hilton - he was paraphrasing H. L. Mencken - "To every complicated question is a simple answer - and it's wrong."
So when it comes to the question raised - why aren't parents communicating enough with their children? - television was cited as the highly visible and obvious reason.
One man in the audience got up to say that he wished there were a low banning television from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. One probably wouldn't have to look much further to find someone who wanted to ban it altogether.
But the good Captain - whose real name is Both Keeshan - suggested that not enough people are banning themselves for falling out of touch with their children. He agrees that irretrievable children-parent time it lost in great gobs by children who sit in front of a television set 30 or more hours a week but that it's the parents who don't have the sense to use the on-off button.
"Television is not, of itself, an intrusion," said the Captain. (That's what the grown-ups call him, too, not Bob Keeshan; its always, "Thank you, Captain," or "Captain, I've always been a fan of yours.") "The television can be an excuse for parents not communicating with a child."
And what a loss this is for both because, as the Captain adds, "No television show, no matter how marvelous, can compete (in value) with the time of a parent if the parent wants to communicate."
The Captain says there's no rule of thumb as to what a child should watch or how much - after all, each child is an individual. So it's up to the parent's discretion. This can sometimes by abysmally poor. He mentioned by case ofa woman writing in to Johnny Carson berating him for using "blue" language in front of her 8-yer-old at home watching.
The Captain says that too often the words "Go watch television" are heard in the home. "We don't have time in our lives for young children," he says.
Of course, he says, television can be beneficial. As for his program, he says he's tried to augment the efforts of parents in the development of a child during the more than 22 years he has been Captain Kangaroo. (For five years in the late '40s and early '50s, the 50-year-old Keeshan Clarabelle on Howdy Doody. Clarabelle didn't talk but Keeshan says, "I've made up for it since.")
So it seems easy. "Let parents be something radical - parents," the Captain says. Let them simply control the set.
In so doing, it would seem, parents would be at least partially solving some of the "10 nagging problems in raisisng children who are 12 years or under," which were listed in a child-Mills forum.
One was watching too much television, but others seemed to stem from it: filling up with snacks between meals, always asking for things seen advertised, not going to bed on time, not doing chores.
All of this would seem to be some evidence that if a parent would supervise viewing by his offspring, much else would get accomplished around the house, and there would even be time actually to talk to each other.
But when it coes right down to pushing the on-off button, it may not be all that easy.The same child-raising study points out that thing parents and children agree on is that "the amount of time children spend in front of television sets and the programs they watch are among the major sources of friction and argument in the family."