The secret of ‘Poopy Thomas’ is a parenting secret. A guilty parenting secret. I’m sure as ‘lockdown parents’ we all have some parenting hacks. Maybe some of them we’re not entirely proud of. And my parenting hack is ‘Poopy Thomas.’
Who is ‘Poopy Thomas?’
He is, in fact, Thomas the Tank Engine, but not as the Rev. W. Awdry first imagined him. I imagine the Rev. W. Awdry would be turning in his grave if he were to find out about ‘Poopy Thomas.’
Kids love YouTube, right? It’s like TV, except that they get to choose exactly what they want to watch (with ‘restricted mode’ activated, of course.) And what do they choose to watch? What, to my parental eyes, seems like ‘a load of poop.’ I put the Classic 1980’s Thomas the Tank series (featuring the legendary voice of Ringo Starr) on for my younger son to watch a while back. Minutes later, YouTube in its infinite algorithmic wisdom came up as a viewing suggestion with videos of kids playing with Thomas the Tank Engine toys. So I asked my younger son ‘what is that poop you’re watching?’ And now, whenever he watches YouTube, he specifically asks for ‘Poopy Thomas.’
Queue Parental Guilt
So now I have a love-hate relationship with ‘Poopy Thomas.’ He is my babysitter, my surefire way to get a half-hour’s peace and quiet when I need it. But he is also my nemesis: he is teaching my children about consumerism, teaching them that ‘unboxing’ of toys is a leisure activity. Why does my son prefer to watch people playing with toys on YouTube than to play with them himself? Perhaps because he needs participation. Say what you like about the parents who make the ‘Poopy Thomas’ videos: they are certainly animated, and they do make up little adventure stories with the toy trains. These videos are not entirely bad.
As ever, I think the key is balance: let your child watch these videos if he or she enjoys them, but then spend some time playing with him or her afterwards, once you’ve recharged the parental batteries. Maybe there will be some days (there certainly are for me) when those batteries remain flat. On these days, don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all living through an unprecedented and difficult situation. And even if our kids are being taught consumerism online, then we can choose to teach them the value of things which can’t be bought, offline. We can show them love, read them a book, fire their imaginations.
So as I come to the end of this short post, I invite you to share with me your guilty parenting hacks…but please don’t feel guilty. Just comment with a link to your blog below, have another cup of tea, and give yourself a hard-earned break.