In the world of business, it has become common practice to outsource simpler tasks that can be completed by a third party, allowing the primary business to focus on core competencies. Arguably, the gig economy has brought this same type of efficiency to a lot of household tasks (that men don’t know how to do anymore). But what if we took this model and applied it to parenting? I’m not talking about hiring a babysitter or nanny — that’s called childcare and ain’t nothing new. I’m talking about outsourcing hassles. More specifically, I’m talking about brushing teeth.
Tooth brushing is next to only nail-cutting (why don’t they understand that wriggling = blood?) in terms of pure misery. It may seem like a trivial task, but it is one that requires extraordinary patience and offers little to no joy. Starting at the infant stage (where you tackle biting, mouth-closing, crying, and spitting) and moving on through the school-age (where you tackle all that plus an attitude), it sucks. It just consistently sucks. The worse part? You have to do it every day. Twice.
Of course, you want your kids to have clean teeth; if not for the aesthetics then to avoid dental bills. So you turn up, when you are at your most fragile, and try new approaches, fresh mindsets, methods of distraction… not to mentions threats and brute force. And sometimes, when the moon aligns with Jupiter, your kid will open their mouth, stand-still, and let you polish their pearly-whites. But even these little gifts from God are tinged with resentment as you are reminded that your kids are more than capable of making this routine easy, they just won’t. But most of the time, not so much.
Well, parents, I am here to tell you that I have seen the promised land, and it’s a two-minute podcast called Chompers.
You simply hit play and through a dazzling array of music, jokes, and interactive quizzes, Chompers casts a compliant spell on your little ones. While they learn about geography or animals, Chompers instructs them where to brush and for how long. It sounds too simple to work, but it does. Trust me. Chompers totally changed my kids’ toothbrushing routine. Also, my life.
Here’s how it goes now: I stand there, drinking my coffee and not brushing my teeth. Inevitably, I fantasize about a room tidying podcast or — dare I be so bold — a toilet cleaning podcast.
I can’t quite believe that this is all it takes to get my kids to do as they are told; an enthusiastic voice and some interactive questions. Would they wash my car if put on the radio and read aloud the cards from trivial pursuit?
A (small) part of me felt guilty. I swore I would never let technology raise my kids. I wasn’t going to be that dad. Surely, I could find the patience and perseverance to maintain their dental hygiene for a few more years until they were mature enough to handle it themselves.
Some interactions are just different between a parent and a child. If you’ve ever volunteered in your kid’s classroom or watched them at soccer practice, you’ll notice that they act differently (which is a kind way of saying they better). The lack of familiarity (or maybe its just fear) convinces them to listen and follow directions without the drama that we have to endure. So maybe outsourcing jobs like teeth-brushing, or getting them to eat their veggies, or do their homework, isn’t such a terrible idea.
For a brief moment, as I watched my kid staring at the speaker, eagerly awaiting the next instruction, I did worry that I might be contributing to the robot takeover. The automation of our children doing such mundane tasks feels like a slippy slope. Fast forward ten years and maybe the kid skips past me and asks Alexa for advice on dating?
But then I took another sip of my coffee (while it was still hot) and standing at the back of the bathroom, centered and serene, as my kid eagerly brushed their own teeth, I pushed all those concerns aside.
They’ll be fine…. And if they’re not, at least they’ll have good teeth.
Ant Jackson is a father of two and a British freelance writer living in San Diego. When he is not teaching his girls how to speak the queen’s English, he plays soccer and makes cocktails.