Family life

When your toddler gets a hold of YouTube

Katie Dupuis tried to get some work done while staying home with a sniffly Sophie, and they both got an eye-full online.

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Sophie’s first sick day at home. Photo: Katie Dupuis

Today’s Parent managing editor Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization. A lot. Now, imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie and husband Blaine.

At the beginning of the summer, Miss Sophie had a mild cold. She was fussy and a little fevered, and she woke up a few mornings with a crusty face and runny nose; add the dryness that happens with mouth breathing and its interference with her beloved soother, and Soph had earned herself a sick day.

It sounds easy in theory: sick kid = staying home from daycare. But Blaine and I both have demanding jobs that we don’t like to miss, so it becomes a bit tricky to determine who can work from home (and by work from home, I mean attempt to write emails and get through the day’s tasks while juggling snack requests and nap time). I won (lost?) the toss up that day because Blaine had a presentation he couldn’t miss, so I settled Sophie on the couch with her favourite lineup of kids’ shows and a sippy cup of milk, in an attempt to get something done while she was awake.

Read more: The working parents’ guide to dealing with sick kids >

Apparently I was completely delusional. She sat quietly for approximately half a second. Then I heard this little voice asking me, every 30 seconds, “Whatzzat?” (What’s that?) and “Dinosaur, Mommy?” (she was watching Dino Dan) and then a wail for “Eeellllllmmmmmooooo!” (Sesame Street demands, clearly. It was a little like being held hostage by a tiny dictator.) I think I managed to respond to one email an hour for the better part of that morning and that was it. She wouldn’t even occupy herself long enough for me to tidy the breakfast dishes, and for a neat freak like me, that’s torture.

As naptime neared and the whining intensified, I got desperate. I pulled out the iPad and searched “India Arie Elmo ABC” on YouTube — one of her favourite videos. She sings along and dances to Elmo and India singing the alphabet, and it buys me about three and a half minutes. I was just starting the dishwasher when I realized it had been longer than India and Elmo’s song, and I looked over to see what Sophie was watching. She had pressed the “over” arrow on YouTube about a hundred times and managed to find a somewhat provocative video of a couple walking each other around on leashes (they were fully clothed and such, but it was obviously situational and not something I wanted her to talk about for the rest of time. She’s in the repetition stage and I can only imagine what she’d come up with). “Soph!” I said, startling her. “What is that?”

“Look, doggies!” she said, pointing happily at the screen. (Case in point.)

“No, not doggies,” I said, and distracted her with a box of blocks while I packed the iPad away. She didn’t know that the video wasn’t appropriate for her, obviously, but I was mortified, mentally reprimanding myself for not watching more carefully and promising to never get annoyed with a dirty kitchen again (yeah, like that’s going to happen).

In hindsight, it’s a funny story. If it wasn’t the iPad, it would have been dropping the TV remote and finding something less than appropriate for a preschooler or keying the wrong word in to a computer search in a few years. In my preteen years, I pilfered romance novels from the cantina in my mom and dad’s basement and read them under the covers. And trust me, it wasn’t from lack of supervision. Kids are crafty.

I’m sure Soph isn’t scarred by the experience, but I will keep a closer eye from now on. I should have snuggled up with her and read a book instead (she’s only going to be this little for so long), which will be the first course of action next time. The dishes can wait. (And so can YouTube.)