Tuesday, February 22, 2005


My preschooler the junkie

I was wandering around on Mimilou, which BTW, is a smart and funny blog worth reading, and she was talking about how her son has discovered Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine. It got me thinking about how we’re just about at the one year anniversary of our own indoctrination into the cult of Thomas and Bob (or, as Tristan called Bob way back then – for reasons that were never clear – “dat dat chh”.) Was there really life before them? Surely it was an empty existence.

I’m not sure who is more addicted to Bob and Thomas, Tristan or Beloved. Tristan has the habit, but Beloved is his dealer. We actually spent an entire day last summer scouring the toy departments of four separate Winners stores when we found out that they had received shipments of the Bob the Builder Brio train characters and were selling them at about 1/3 the price of the big chain toy stores. Just a little bit obsessive, eh? I have to say, though, I’m impressed with the guarantee on the toys – we noticed the paint chipping on Lofty, and Beloved called to find out if they market a touch-up paint for the truly neurotic fans. Turns out they will replace any of the pieces, free of charge, no questions asked. So now we have two entire sets, one for each boy, albeit one a little more worn than the other. I’m not sure whether to be proud or ashamed of ourselves.

Tristan worships “all the guys”, as he calls his growing collection of Bob and Thomas artefacts. He carries them around in a thermal lunch bag that originally contained all the medications we received from the clinic for the in vitro fertilization process that ultimately resulted in Tristan. I find the irony of this simply delicious.

He really is learning something aside from rampant consumerism, though. It awes me to watch him pore over the little catalogues that come from the toy store and name each and every engine – there must be dozens of them. If he can memorize those at three, surely he will be able to memorize long passages from Shakespeare by the time he’s in the first grade, right? He started using the word “splendid” in context at two and a half, as in “Mommy, it’s a splendid day today,” and it was only weeks later that I realized he got it from the Thomas show, where they refer to James as a splendid engine. Hey, my mother credits my twice a day Sesame Street habit in the 1970s with my graduation magna cum laude from university, so I won’t knock it!

But is it just me, or is the Thomas and Friends TV show kind of disturbing? It’s like they just set up a big train table with cameras on it and raided the local community access cable channel for cheap special effects to go with it. Maybe some of Beloved’s elitist attitudes about animation are wearing off on me (he is an animator by training and a teacher by economy) but I’d rather watch the colourful claymation of Bob’s world than Thomas’ eerie rolling eyeballs any day.