“I wonder what’s on TV four in the morning here…,”

That’s what my dear hubs said yesterday in the middle of the night. I’d slept early to wake up for my early workout this morning (I have been sooooooo bad, my friends) and we were both wide awake circa four.

“Nothing, so please don’t turn it on,” I pleaded. I’d wanted to read quietly and hopefully doze back to sleep, and I’m one of those people who can’t have any noise when they read.

“Remember when there was only that BzzzzZzzZz static when you turned on the TV in the middle of the night?” asked Lokes, grinning, hands still fumbling for the remote. Of course, he was referring to TV back home in Malaysia.

I couldn’t help smiling.

“Yeah. Or teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, with that circle picture,” I replied.

“Yeah, or music. That comes on when it’s about to start.”

“Yeah, and we’d sit there and wait for it,” I giggled.

“Yeah, and there’s a clock there counting down and sometimes it cheats and slows down and then when it’s ready, it goes really fast,” Lokes added.

“Really? I never knew that!”

“Yeah, and then Neeeegaaaaraaaaakuuuuu! Taaaanaaahhtuummmpaaahhh…”

I caved, and stuffed my head in my pillow to laugh my ass off. That was the beginning of the Malaysian National Anthem, which plays, even today, at the beginning and end of each day of broadcast.

“And we’d be so happy because can watch TV!” he giggled.

We started to recall our favourite late afternoon/evening programs et al: Remember the Disney cartoons? The Star Trek Original Series reruns? The how to make a wau and labu and anti-dadah infomercials? Say what you will, but those dadah ones scared the hell out of me and I never dared to touch drugs EVER because of them.

Amid our middle-of-the-night camaraderie, I suddenly realised the increasing importance of regulating TV hours for our kids these days. It’s because we have cable like Astro or Comcast that goes on 24 hours, versus ‘back in the day’, where TV would start only at 4.30pm in the afternoon and be done by 12 midnight (at least in Malaysia it did).

We were forced to entertain ourselves between school and TV , which was a good two to three hours. That was all we needed to finish our homework, and then play congkak or zero point or ‘man’s head’ with our friends, before a good solid one hour or so of cartoons, and then the boooooorrrring grownup programs would come on at about 6pm and that was it. It was back to the playground for us.

It was so much simpler then. Today, we’re either lazy or out of ideas or just too tired to deny TV to our kids. Or for us Asians, we’re afraid that if we don’t let them watch Playhouse Disney, our kids might turn out stupid. I remember my MiL telling me one time how her friend would not let her grandson watch TV, and how he hadn’t learnt to talk even at age two. The message, I guess, was that putting Rae in front of the tube all day would make her a genius?

Me thinks we should cancel the cable. I wonder what the big kid would say.

As in the BIG big kid.