Some kids have security blankets. Some don’t go anywhere without their favorite teddy bear or stuffed cat or Elmo doll. My toddler isn’t any different, it’s just that he has forty-seven security blankets, and they are called trains (actually, they are not all called trains, they have specific names and identities like Percy, Gordon, Edward, and Balloon Car. FML). I have no problem with my kiddo being a train aficionado; in fact, I think it’s adorable and, as a good friend once said when I mentioned Leo’s preference for moving vehicles, “What could be bad about it? It’s just transportation.” I had to agree. I don’t mind that my kiddo wants ALL THOMAS ALL THE TIME. It’s cute — except for the fact that I have officially become a train herder. I dream about my kiddo being obsessed with one dirty, unidentifiable stuffed animal with a missing eye and a dried lollipop stick stuck in its fur. Because the alternative is a part-time job tracking, mobilizing, and collecting easily misplace-able small plastic toys.
Case in point: Let’s say it’s the morning, and Leo’s just woken up. What does he want to do? Take all of his trains upstairs from his bedroom to the playroom put them on the “TRACKS! TRACKS!” (to any outsider, my sweet 2yo sounds like he has a gambling problem). We get upstairs, he plays with the trains on the tracks for all of five seconds, and then it’s time to go to daycare, at which point all ten trains* must be transported down two flights of stairs to the garage where they are deposited either into the pockets of my diaper bag, or in his rolling Owl, and at this point they’ve been dropped several times as we each attempt to carry way more trains than hands were designed for. (I know what you’re thinking: we should move to a one-story house. We live in San Francisco so that is actually a physical impossibility, but point taken).
Once we arrive at daycare, the looming question of the day is (wait for it)… which trains he will take with him? James and the red car? Talking Gordon and Talking Gordon’s Tender? A decision is painstakingly made, and a few hours later, at pick-up time, it is my sole responsibility to remember which trains traveled with him so that I can guarantee we’re bringing said vehicles back home with us. Otherwise, lasting psychological damage might occur before we make it back to daycare in two days (this step is even more critical if there’s a weekend pending. The last thing I want to hear for 48 hours is “WHERE’S PERCY WHERE’S PERCY WHERE’S PERCY?”** At bedtime, trains go with him in his crib or big boy bed, and all of his favorites must be present, I mean I don’t blame him I can’t sleep without my red car, either.
So what, exactly, does this mean for me? Obviously, I know almost all of the Thomas trains’ names, colors, and attributes (anyone who’s anyone knows that Toby is a tram engine made of wood, right?) but beyond that, it means that I spend a good 40 minutes of every day either searching for trains, picking up trains, rounding up trains, or putting batteries into the talking/musical trains that were invented specifically to make parents want to cry themselves to sleep. It also means that I don’t have room in my head anymore for the names of Senators or reality television stars, because if I’m not able to identify, locate, and produce Leo’s red caboose or traveling Sodor library book car on a moment’s notice, I’m the parental version of toast. What else? I can whip out a fairly accurate crayon drawing of each and every train, not that I’m bragging or anything. Trains seem to be my cross to bear right now, but there is a plus: they are extremely replaceable mass-produced toys that can even be procured, in moments of desperation, on Amazon Prime. Thank God.
*There aren’t really 47; there are about 10 “go to” trains and about 15 generic, non-Thomas-the-Train-brand back ups that don’t get chosen for important, leading roles but serve as filler in the train line-up, and those trains are sad
**This happened once, and let me cut to the chase by saying that it resulted in our family acquiring a second Percy. “Old” Percy was then, of course, immediately located, just in time for “new” Percy to disappear. At time of publication, he is still MIA.