To keep teenagers in range, a modern household needs at least one of the following three set-ups: A basement with couches. An enormous flat-screen TV. A hot tub. If you have an enormous flat-screen TV in a couch-equipped basement that has a door leading to an outdoor hot tub, join Sam’s Club now. You’re gonna need lots of snacks.

We, sadly, have no couches in the basement, no hot tub and no enormous flat-screen TV.

Our normal-size TV broke when our daughter was 2. It broke because I couldn’t handle the three-hour tantrums she had when we pulled her away from her favorite PBS show, “Teletubbies.” When Tinky Winky (the purple one) would leave the fluorescent set, she would slide off the couch onto the floor and cry for a very long time.

Our bulky TV went the way of the four pacifiers she carried around 24/7. The pacifiers were not pacifying, and the TV created more trouble than it was worth.

At age 2, she did not understand the difference between having 10 books read to her and watching 10 shows on PBS. Mercifully, finishing the 10th book did not cause a three-hour meltdown.

So, one day we all went cold turkey.

The pacifiers (orthodontically approved for a reason) went missing at preschool, leaving behind a perfect circle between her top and bottom teeth, and the TV was stashed in the attic, allegedly broken – just temporarily, of course. It wasn’t until last year, when a friend mentioned the broken TV story, that my daughter learned the truth.

She was shocked.

For the record, I did not want to give up TV. I liked TV. I still like TV. I never put restrictions on us watching TV off site. This, of course, turned my daughter and me into TV junkies. Thanksgivings at my parents’ home often included 17 or 18 episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Father and daughter have been known to watch epic movies like “Lord of the Rings” on a 7-inch DVD player loaned to us by our empathetic neighbors.

Some would call this sad. My brother once asked me, “How do you live?”

This was how:

 On cold winter nights, we would read out loud to each other from the free section of Uncle Henry’s. One time, while reading the “free” section, we discovered that my older sister was giving away her adult cats. We called the familiar phone number in the ad and she answered.

Roosters, by the way, are always free.

 Our downstairs neighbor used to leave her two-day-old, coffee-stained New York Times on our back steps for us. Thus began my fascination with interesting dead people. I read the New York Times obituary page every day.

 Before Books Etc. on Exchange Street closed, I depended heavily on their staff picks.

After Sept. 11, when George W. declared a code red, I often missed the warning until it was reduced to a code yellow.

The last big drama I remember watching on TV was O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco adventure.

Oversized flat-screen TVs are a necessary evil these days if you want your teens to stay close. Out of sight in a basement with a door that locks is the preferred spot. Like a giant magnet, the television almost always draws them back to this central location. (I have come to accept the way teens watch TV: with heads facing down over their phones, they absorb the content on the big screen through osmosis.)

Last weekend, we experienced a rare shift in the migration of our teen’s flock. They arrived within minutes of each other. First one, then two, then five, then 15, until it seemed like there were a hundred full-grown adults under our roof.

With no TV, no couches in the basement and no hot tub, they congregated in one tiny room upstairs while Tom and I watched “Love Actually” downstairs on the computer in the kitchen.

“Awkward” would be understating the feeling I had as full-grown young adults filed by us to go upstairs, so I texted my daughter and offered to switch floors. Barricaded in our bedroom, we finished “Love Actually” on my daughter’s iPad.

The teens stayed for maybe two hours before they drove off in what sounded like a hundred different cars in search of a modern household.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

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