Parenting is full of surprises. Sometimes the surprises are pleasant (like my six-year-old’s school report stating that she takes responsibility for her own belongings), sometimes the surprises are unpleasant (like discovering that same six-year-old has been shoving all her used tissues and food wrappers under her bed) and sometimes the surprises just kind of creep up on you. This doesn’t happen very often, but slow surprises are very real. They’re the moments you finally realise things are not quite what you’d expected they would be. Sometimes slow surprises force you to change your mindset; sometimes you end up having to eat your words.
Last night, while I was out shopping at The Warehouse, I had one of those slow-surprising moments. I was looking through the toy section, keeping an eye out for Christmas gifts for the kids (there’s a big sale on, okay? I’m not completely mad). It was pretty boring, to be honest, but when I got to the Thomas the Tank Engine display I got excited. Yes, excited. About Thomas. The train I have always hated with a passion. The train I always said my kids would never play with. Holy crud, what the hell has happened to me?
I still dislike him (Thomas, I mean), but I just cannot hate the stupid train when I see how much joy my son gets from him on a daily basis. I love listening to Mr. Three laughing and chatting away to his trains, and I’m constantly amazed by how much he knows about both the Thomas characters themselves, and trains in general. I mean, the kid can’t even speak properly half the time, but he’s started correcting me when I use the wrong word for those special train traffic lights (they’re signals, duh). When I walk him to kindergarten in the mornings there’s always at least one Thomas train clutched tightly in his hand, and there are often tears when I tell him I need to take the toy back home with me to keep it safe. He actually attempted to smuggle his trains into kindy yesterday. I only realised Percy and Freddie were shoved down the legs of his pants when I noticed how stiffly he was walking. Call me a weirdo, but I reckon that’s pretty cool.
My son’s love for Thomas has softened me so much that I’ve even started buying him branded clothing. Considering I’ve always said I would never let my kids wear ugly licensed merchandise, and that I would never pay an extra 10 to 20 dollars just for a brand, that’s kind of a big deal. Right now Mr. Three is the proud owner of Thomas underpants, Thomas shoes, and a Thomas dressing gown. Last night I had to tear myself away from a half-price Thomas blanket I spotted on the shelves. And I’m pretty sure I’ll end up caving and will buy him a Thomas hoodie or T-shirt or sunhat at some point in the near future – the very Thomas-emblazoned items I despise most of all.
I have often moaned about the fact that my son doesn’t want to do anything that’s not directly related to trains, I may have even moaned about it earlier this week, but I don’t actually think it bothers me anymore. If anything, I’ve embraced it. If Mr. Three wants to talk to me about trains, then I’m more than happy to listen. If he wants to take home every single Thomas book on the library shelves, then I’ll check them all out in a heartbeat. I’ve been ignoring it for a while, but there’s something magical about seeing your child’s eyes wide and bright with wonder. There’s something uplifting about finding something you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that your child is going to adore. There’s something special about feeding your child’s passion. Whether those passions align with your own or not just isn’t important. Allowing my son to do what makes him happy is.
Before I had sons I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy raising boys. Boy stuff is boring. Trucks and cars and trains, guns and fights and super heroes – none of that appeals to me. None of that will ever appeal to me. But seeing the world through my son’s eyes has made me realise that as long as there is passion, the subject doesn’t matter. I may not care about trains, but reading train-themed stories aloud as my son sits in my lap is actually pretty awesome. I may not want to watch Thomas for the 50th time, but deciding which Thomas character each member of our family resembles the most is kind of hilarious (Dad is Toby, because Toby is square – omg). I may not want to spend $45 on a bright red sweatshirt with the face of a giant, blue engine printed obnoxiously on the front, but knowing my kid will wear the crap out of it, and that he’ll beam with pride every time he puts it on, will make the purchase worth every single cent.
It’s funny really, this whole parenting gig. You go into it thinking you have all the answers, but it’s like the longer you’ve been at it, the more you realise you don’t really know anything. I stay home with my kids, and I teach them how to walk, to count, to use their manners… but all the things they’ve taught me over the years have been way more important. Who would’ve thought a three-year-old boy with a love of trains could teach me such a valuable lesson. Content is nothing; passion is everything.
– Fern xxx
I love the kid and his love of trains so much, that he got TWO different train cakes for this birthday back in March.