So, okay, somebody invented a potty chair with a mount for your iPad. Okay? Somebody did that. And the idea is that, to incentivize learning to shit properly, you let your kid play with your iPod while their poop is coming out, and THEY FUCKING LOVE IT, and potty training becomes a totally-pun-intended breeze (see, because like farts). And then...you run your iPod through the dishwasher or something? I guess? To GET THE POOP OFF? That's this thing. That's this invention. You can have it if you want. Go nuts.
This helpful video over at Amazon (screencapped above) demonstrates how the iPotty works. Basically, the mom is like, "Hey! Kid! Shit in the thing! I'm tired of having your shit on me!" And then the kid goes, "Fuck you, lady! Eat Nerf!" And then the mom [bleeding from the nose and gums] is like, "But if you shit in the thiiiiiing, you can also spray urine on mommy's incredibly expensive computer deviiiiiiiice!" And the kid is all, "KA-CHINGGGGGG!!!" [Everyone dumps in unison.] Fin.
Sounds like a plan.
Now, I'm deeply disdainful of the knee-jerk Luddism that infuses so much of our discourse about modern technology. What's the point of inventing amazing, near-magical technological wonders if we're just going to shame people for using them? That's dumb. My boyfriend's kids have iPads (not bought by us), and yes, their little eyeballs can be difficult to unglue. But at the same time, they're making short films on their iPads. They're listening to Mariah Carey (I'm SO PROUD) and reading about whales and watching instructional YouTube videos on how to draw manga-style portraits of Harry Styles. It's really not that different from what I was doing when I was a kid. So why demonize this fucking incredible machine?
That said, my initial reaction to the iPotty was NOPE. Not only because you get poop on your computer (an inevitability barfily acknowledged by the manufacturers with the inclusion of a "Clear touchscreen protector guards against smudges and messy hands"), but because I'm just so personally weary of looking at screens all the time. Do you know how much I wish I could not look at a screen for a day? A week? A month? Do you know how JEALOUS I AM OF BABIES? So my heart horks a little bit when I come across new and innovative ways to introduce screens into previously non-screen-related activities such as learning where to shit. Also, do we really need our babies multitasking when they're learning proper feces disposal techniques? Serious question.
But, as a person who's never potty-trained anyone, I'm really not qualified to tell people how they should and shouldn't accomplish this most important task. WTF do I know? Who am I to tell busy, tired, frazzled people how they should wrangle their little headstrong Play Doh Fun Factories? Nobody, that's who.
Fortunately, I have a bona fide parent of two fully potty-trained pre-teen girls who lives right here in my house! So I interviewed my boyfriend, Ahamefule Oluo, about the iPotty to find out whether or not it's a good idea.
LW: Hey, boyfriend! So, you've potty trained several children. Do you think it's a good idea to bribe kids with iPod time to teach them to drop their singles in the toilet and not in their pants?
AO: Honestly, potty training is really, really hard. You have no idea. It's hard to convince someone who has yet to develop a sense of shame that it isn't better to just shit themselves and let you clean it up. So, to a certain extent, I support people doing whatever they need to do to get through that phase.
LW: Does that mean you'd get an iPotty for the girls if you had to do it over again?
AO: To be honest, if that had been available when my girls were learning to stop shitting themselves, and I had had the resources to get one, it would have been really tempting. Because it's such a frustrating time. But those frustrating times are bonding opportunities—they're important—so, in terms of parenting, I think this is a bad idea. I really do. Your kid doesn't potty train—you guys potty train together. You learn things about each other, you learn how to operate.
And as a parent, because you're an adult, you have to figure out how to convince them to make good decisions. And this is a big one where you want to play as active a role as possible in the convincing. Because they're going to come to an age where fuckin' slapping an iPad on something isn't going to do enough to fix their problems. And you can't set the precedent, also, that the incentive for everything is a gadget. Because where do you go from there? You're setting a precedent in your child-rearing.
LW: Right, you can't just make your kids do everything for a reward.
AO: Right. And you're not even giving them a reward for doing anything—you're giving them a reward for sitting there. And pooping. Basic human responsibilities like that don't deserve rewards. Part of the thing with potty training is you're figuring out how to get them to do something that they don't want to do—because that's going to happen in other situations in their lives, and you're not always going to have the option of making them want to do it. They have to learn how to do things they don't want to do.
As a parent, you have to be the boss of your kid. Parenting isn't about turning everything into playing. Kids have to not play sometimes.
LW: So, no iPotty under any circumstances?
AO: Well, if you're finding ways to instill that self-reliance by other means, and this is one thing that you just can't fucking figure out, or you don't have the time and patience to figure out, then go ahead and buy the thing. But there needs to be a realization that you're making a concession. And when there are concessions made, for the sake of consistency, you have to make up for that concession by not making concessions other places.
Parenting's hard and every kid's different. And if it comes down to it and you have the means and nothing else will work, they have to stop shitting in their pants. Of course they'll stop eventually no matter what, but they can't be starting school and shitting in their pants, because it's not good for them. The negative impact that that chair would have is less worse than them getting ridiculed in school because they shit their pants. So definitely get the iPad chair, if that's what you have to do.
LW: It just seems to me that, like, a kid shouldn't come with extra hardware requirements. If you can potty train without a magic robot chair, that's ideal. Because it's not like that chair is going to be accessible to most people, so it really can't be a necessity.
AO: Yeah, in some ways I think this is a thing that people with privilege can learn from people without privilege. As someone who grew up extremely poor and has now moved into a more privileged part of my life, there are so many things that I can learn from people with privilege—like, I don't know, establishing the concept of fiscal responsibility from an early age. When I was growing up, we didn't have the ability to plan fiscally because there was nothing to plan. But this is an instance where people who don't have the means to buy an $800 electronic poop-bucket have to find a more personal way of potty training. And that more personal way—if you can do it—is a better way to go. It's something to emulate.
LW: How do you feel about the part where they're DEFINITELY going to get poop on your iPad screen?
AO: I am not pumped about that.
LW: Can I have a bite of your bagel?
AO: No. Learn to live with disappointment.