About this time last year, my toddler dropped my iPhone into the toilet. I was brushing my teeth when it happened, trying to keep her preoccupied for just a few more seconds while I rinsed and spit. It got quiet in the bathroom. And then.... Plop. Splash. "Mommy, oh no! Wow!" I fished the device out of my in-laws' toilet bowl and got on the Internet to figure out what to do.
I found a forum where people recommended turning the phone off immediately and sticking it in a bowl of rice (the grain apparently sops up moisture). Others had success with hair dryers. But, in the end, my phone couldn't be revived. So a few days later I sheepishly made my way to the Apple store.
When the 20-something Apple saleswoman saw my angelic-faced and very petite little girl, she shook her head. "You did this?" She asked my daughter, "I don't believe it. You must have some arm on you."
Then, she tried to make me feel better, "At least it was her. You don't know how many people come in here with the same problem, but it's because they were texting on the toilet." Thanks, I thought. Sort of. I guess she was saying that if I had been checking the Nasdaq or playing Angry Birds while taking a bathroom break, things could be worse. Or at the very least, more embarrassing.
But, I was. Embarrassed. I felt like a bad mom for giving my kid a device to buy myself time. Because I had read all the studies. It's not good to let an under two-year-old near a screen. No TV, says the pediatrician and a load of other experts. The same goes for the computer and any other mobile device. And yet, the bathroom incident wasn't the first time.
When my daughter was still a newborn, I attended a mom's meet-up at a Mexican restaurant in my Brooklyn neighborhood. I had a margarita (yes, I was still breastfeeding, sign my arrest warrant now.) I was standing near two moms, both wearing their babes in cozy little breast-hugging sacks.
Mom #1 said to Mom #2, "I did something awful today." "Mom #2: "What? Is everything OK?" Mom #1: "Yes, but I put my little guy in front of our computer and let him watch a TV show for half an hour while I rested on the couch."
This is when I smiled to myself and thought about how awesome it was that this mom was being honest. Then, Mom #2 responded: "Oh, that's not good."
I had to make sure my hearing was working.
Well, Mom #2, today, my little one is just over two-years-old and she's mastered my phone, the TV remote and knows how to turn on our computer. She even made her first movie on my phone the other day and I sent it around to all of our family members proud of the nuanced angles she'd generated, the skill with which she could hold the device and speak into the frame. I know parents who let their children watch whole episodes of Sesame Street via iPad while sitting on the potty. My daughter probably recognized the apple icon lighting up on my computer before she learned to love the fruit itself. And I'm still not sure if that makes me sad or a little bit proud.
When we were first conquering potty training in our household, I gave my daughter the phone one day and turned on a farm animal app (insert joke here) so that she'd be distracted enough to sit still. My husband instantly poo-pooed my, ahem, poo-poo strategy. He didn't feel it was right or necessary to allow her to surf while trying to go number one or two. We argued and eventually were interrupted by my daughter yelling, "Mommy, Daddy! I poopy!"
So, she sat, she went and she conquered. But thanks to an iPhone app? I started researching, and discovered people weren't just using gadgets as distractions in the bathroom. After a few quick searches, I found apps to help toddlers build on bathroom successes, extend them into a learning experience.... I could "reward" my daughter with fun stars and games each time she tried and eventually did the deed.
All this made me start to feel sick. There should be a limit, right? There's something almost trashy about having my daughter use an iPhone while sitting on the potty. It's like when George Costanza takes some reading material into a bookstore bathroom and then is asked to purchase the book because it's been "flagged" as having been in the restroom. I don't even like seeing reading material near the commode. It always bothers me when we go to someone's home and they have cutesy trivia books set up near the toilet. Gross, I want to scream. Just get in and get out.
And, then there's the judgment thing I've placed on myself as a mother. If I start relying on technology to help my daughter deal with the most basic of activities (the get-in-and-get-out), what kind of parent am I really? Yes, she takes photos and listens to her favorite songs, but I took the Netflix app off entirely because she would look at my phone and announce, "Watch Dora?"
So, we made a "No Phone in the Bathroom" rule and our daughter now has a nice little stack of board books (easier to wipe off if there's spillage) next to her throne. My little Costanza.
Where do you draw the line, er, tinkle in the sand? Like one other mother here pointed out, I feel it's OK to allow for some screen time during the day. Go ahead, sue me. My daughter counts to ten in Spanish and I think Dora might have had something to do with that. But now when she gets to the real "number two," I'll know it was all me.