My 4-year-old covets. I suspect that they all do. I realized this fact not long ago with the help of a fun iPad application that surely most parents are well aware of: YouTube Kids.
The YouTube Kids iPad application is a godsend for modern parents to easily buy themselves a little break time. Where parents of yore had to fire up the VHS players and sit through a cartoon marathon for four hours, modern parents can instead hand over the iPad and guarantee that for however long they allow their child to watch it, it will be a peaceful time of solace for them—a much needed break.
Many of the shows on YouTube Kids are self-produced by parents videoing their own children and thus amount to little more than home movies. These parents set up channels for a few reasons—to promote sponsored products, to accrue ad revenue, to push clicks towards their other internet enterprises, or maybe just because they have literally nothing else to do.
It is a strange phenomenon—essentially it’s a kid, sitting behind an iPad, watching a show about another kid being videotaped by his mom while doing nothing at all besides being a kid. In essence, it’s kids watching kids being kids.
For the longest time I couldn’t understand the appeal of such a program. Then I remembered two things that have become absolute staples of adult culture: reality TV and coveting.
Coveting has been inherent in humans virtually since humanity has existed. Whether you choose to believe that we were placed in a garden by the divine hand of god or you follow the more rational discourse of scientific evolution, certainly we can all agree that we are apes who covet and always have and always will.
By comparison, reality TV is a more recent phenomenon yet still hugely influential in what adults have become. Whether you’re watching twelve strangers stranded on an island or a swanky GQ cover boy handing roses to his most preferred hussies in evening gowns you’re essentially watching the same thing as your child—adults being adults. It serves no purpose. Not now, not ever. And yes, you’re coveting.
What stood out to me as interesting, however, is the more I observed my 4-year-old watching his shows was that he wasn’t so much enjoying the content as he was the material aspects. I’d catch him whispering to himself, “I want that truck!” or “I want that T-Rex!” His commentary was always related to the items and not the people.
He is not a boy who has been deprived of the superficial subculture of children’s toys. He has baskets of them… in every room… all for himself. And yet there he is, coveting.
He got mad at me recently. Something I said or wouldn’t let him do set him off. He threw his signature little tantrum for a few seconds and then we hugged. We resolve all our quarrels with hugs. I asked him, “Do you want a new daddy?”
“No,” he replied, “I like this daddy right here.”
“But, if you want, I can find you a new daddy,” I offered.
“No this is a good daddy right here,” he confirmed.
How does he know this? How does he know that I’m a good daddy when he has never sampled the other daddies?
In much the same way he doesn’t know if the T-Rex he sees on YouTube Kids is better than the five t-rex dinosaurs he already has, he no more is able to absolutely determine that I’m the best daddy on the market. I’m sure there are droves of upgraded daddies out there with all the special features that I didn’t come with.
He wants those other t-rex toys, even after having sampled a wide variety of what the t-rex marketplace has to offer. And yet he’s only experienced one daddy and he’s ok with it.
I have tried to use this example to intercede in his coveting. Explaining to him that he has enough toys already on hand to support the interests of six more children did not get the message across. I suppose so long as he’s human, he will always covet to some degree.
I have a 4-year-old who covets yet seems to understand that the one, virtually universal area where no one covets is family. Sure you may not like when Uncle Sal goes skinny dipping in the lake at the family reunion but you don’t go searching for replacement uncles.
My son likes lots of toys and this daddy and I guess for now, that’s an acceptable rational.
It took a 4-year-old to show me that coveting things is natural but the love for your family is unconditional. I probably should have known that all along—surely one of the upgraded 2018 model year daddies would have.