"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, November 19, 2012

Trains and the Two-Year-Old Boy

At two-years-old, Xander can't get enough out of trains.

He wakes up in the morning calling out, "Choo choo!" Mom and Dad hear it through the baby monitor, and it's enough to make me want to ditch the whole system. If he wants me to wake up, he can climb out of the crib and say "choo choo!" at me in person. I don't think Mom is there yet, though.

When we finally pull him from the crib, then, he runs to wherever he was last night with his trains before being forced to give them up in favor of a pacifier and cup of milk. He carries at least three trains in his arms, wanders around the house, sometimes putting the trains on a track, sometimes just pushing them around the floor or couch or table or bathtub, always with the mantra, "Trains. Choo choo. Trains. Choo choo" on his lips.

And the perpetual smile is kinda creepy.
He watches a variety of train-related videos during the day. Thomas the Tank Engine is one of the favorites, much to my chagrin. At least it's changed from earlier incarnations. Even with George Carlin or Ringo Starr narrating, I could never get past the soulless faces on these engines and the plastic humans, standing in place, as if someone were literally filming a train run around someone's model track in the garage. Now it's computer animated, so the trains actually speak their lines and the background doesn't look like it was built by Radio Shack, but it's not like they now produce Pixar-quality stories. It's still just an excuse for a toddler to watch trains chuff their way down the tracks.

"Chuff," by the way, is a word I've only recently learned. It's the sound the train makes as it goes, as in, "Thomas chuffed around the tracks, showing he was a very useful engine." We found a book called Choo Choo by Petr Horacek at the library, and it demonstrates that there are several interesting synonyms for train noises that a young boy might want to know.

Lately, though, the boy wants to watch a movie called The Little Engine That Could. Wildly original, I know. But it's a new movie, computer animated, and Whoopi does a voice, and so does Patrick Warburton, so it could be worse. Xander will watch this movie over and over and over. He calls it "Train" and Thomas and Friends is called "Choo Choo."

When we want to feel like good parents and limit his TV time to a mere several hours a day, we have train-based iPhone apps that he fiddles with. They're mostly Thomas puzzles and interactive books, and some are just train pictures with train noises, but the boy can't get enough. He'll sit on the couch touching the screen in the same place to see the same picture or hear the same chuffing, again while holding three trains in his other hand against his chest, like if he drops them or even lets them out of his sight for a minute, the train might go away, his fascination might require some other diversion.

Then last week, he turned two, and he got the gift of even more trains. Trains of different sizes to go on different tracks. It's a racket, but we willingly bought into it. He now has trains more fancy than the blocky, plastic ones he used to carry around. It's Thomas and Percy, wooden, metal, and even electric. He doesn't really like the one that has an "on" switch to make it go by itself. It's loud and creaky. Perhaps it reminds him of the nasty hair clippers. Or perhaps it just takes away his own fantasy of moving his own engine by his own power, hauling some kind of precious cargo over the hill because he knew he could.


  1. The obsession stage is so enjoyable. We were lucky enough to have the one obsession last at least two years and it was the same obsession for both boys. I'm glad we saved the toys from the oldest so the younger could enjoy them and our bank definitely thanked us.

    1. Are you saying the trains thing could last years? Yikes.

  2. Hat is it with little boys and trains? I admit, my son didn't reach Xander's level of obsession, but he had a certain fascination with them for a while. Interesting. Well, I guess every young child has interests like this at some point in their lives, my daughter is currently in the princess obsession phase. She can't sand to not be wearing a princess dress during the day.

    1. No worries about "stand." You also started with "Hat" instead of "What." :)

      I think girls and princesses might be worse than boys and trains. I mean, my 13-year-old daughter still wants to be a princess.