Well that blew.
It was our “Day Out With Thomas”, when a rail-riding, full-size “Thomas the Train” visits sleepy train stations with operable train tracks.
In our case, the Essex, CT, train station attaches some coaches to a locomotive, followed by Thomas, and makes a 20-minute trip to the local dump, and then back to the station.
Last year, our trip was idyllic. Ellison bounced along to the songs during the ride, thrilled at hugging a dressed-up “Sir Topham Hat” and riding a jankety fair rides dotting the parking lot.
This year’s day out started out euphorically. For the entirety of our fifteen minute drive, Ellison chanted, “I want to ride Thomas!” The cuteness drove me crazy.
At the station entrance, he skipped and chanted, “I’m so excited to see Thomas! Hooray!”
I love it when he talks like he’s reading a “Dick and Jane” book.
Colton was equal parts confused and excited.
We cheered Thomas’ arrival from the previous trip to the dump.
As we proceeded toward the boarding area, Ellison noticed a table sponsored by PBS displaying swag and a gift basket of Thomas toys.
Ellison walked up and asked, “Can I have that?”
The PBS woman said, “It’s not for sale, sweetie, but your daddy can register to win it. Would you like a PBS pen, instead?”
“No, thank you,” he politely responded…sneeringly.
I gave my spam email and a fake address to the PBS rep woman.
As we turned to board Thomas, I saw tears streaming down Ellison’s face.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” I ask.
“I wanted the Thomas basket.”
You must be kidding. I didn’t expect to be one of those parents with one of those kids crying during this supposedly idyllic day.
Also, Ellison didn’t usually begin tantrum tears silently. Usually his hands go to his wide-open mouth and his cry is deafening.
I knelt down and said, “Buddy, that basket wasn’t for sale. I’m going to try to win it for you. But now is the exciting part. We’re gonna ride Thomas!”
Ellison whimpered and walked with fogged glasses (which adorably happens every time he cries).
We rode on Thomas for the 20 minutes in each direction to and from the dump. The first five minutes are deafening: kids screaming and parents frantically shouting to smile for pictures. It’s mayhem.
And then the passengers just stare at swamps and the back of dilapidated houses located near the railroad tracks. The return ride is understandably quieter.
Ellison sulked the entire time.
After disembarking from the train, I suggested we visit Sir Topham Hat (some poor sot forced to dress in a stifling plush costume.)
I forgot that meant walking through a massive Thomas pop-up toy store.
Ellison’s head almost exploded as we entered the store. He sprinted frantically around the displays grabbing and pointing. None of this happened last year when he had no concept of acquisition.
Apparently capitalism ruined my son over the last year.
I was suddenly re-living my childhood with my mom. During our summer road trips, my number one destination was gift shops. I’d beg her to buy absolutely anything: toys, books, doilies, figurines, ashtrays. Didn’t matter what. Acquisition was the name of my game. I’d hurry us through museums, memorials and monuments to GET TO THE GIFT STORE. I’d present crap as “educational” to help my case. Usually I came up empty-handed. Mom was no impulse buyer.
Eighty-seven years later, I’m watching my son act like the Tasmanian Devil and asking myself, “What would Mom do?”
When I said “no” to the dual train set of “Iron ‘Arry and Iron Bert”, Ellison’s channeled his inner Claire Danes in her 1990’s tearful glory; hands shot into mouth, glasses fogged.
And Thomas enraged me.
During the next few hours of bartering with Ellison, I looked around: were ANY of the other parents having fun? Was I the only adult infuriated with Thomas? Why have I become so bitter?
And then Ellison peed his pants. Again.
More tears, more internal rage.
Gavin: he’s 3. Give him a break. You need to be better about stopping to make him pee every 30 minutes.
Thomas soured me on any fairs. They’re chock-full of ways to make kids cry.
I should have managed expectations better. Do I say, “You can buy one treat?” I suppose so. But why must I feel obligated to buy something, anyway? Must I check asceticism at the door?
My mom never bought me shit from things like Thomas or county fairs or street fairs or Disneyland. Because of that, I loathed festivals like “Taste of Colorado” or “Lakewood on Parade”. I was a diabetic in a candy store. But I didn’t throw tantrums, cuz I expected nothing. I just wondered why we bothered attending. Mom liked the free concerts. But Julio Iglesias was not interesting to me as a 9-year-old (nor is he now.)
Back to my kids: how on EARTH do you manage DisneyWorld/Land/Hell? Seriously…tell me your secrets.
The day would have been more fun if we’d just gone to a lake and thrown sticks in the water.
We did exactly that later in the afternoon. And it was bliss.
When we sat down for dinner, Ellison was starving and shoveled kale salad and asparagus into his mouth. (I know. Roll your eyes, now.) I asked, “Has it been a good day, Buddy?”
“What was your favorite part?”
“This,” indicating his empty plate of vegetables.