The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Thomas the Tank Engine

You know, just chillin' with my buddy, Sir Topham Hatt.

You know, just chillin’ with Sir Topham Hatt.

What? No blog entry on Father’s Day? You’re a dad blogger for crying out loud!

There’s a very simple reason I am blogging about Father’s Day today and not yesterday. I was too busy enjoying it.

Father’s Day was an absolute delight for me. I got up and Meg had made a wonderful breakfast for us of toast, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns with blue potatoes! After the delicious meal, we got ourselves dressed and headed out to the historic train station in my hometown for “A Day Out with Thomas” (as in, the tank engine).

The courtyard of the station was filled with activities for the family, ranging from a safety house by the fire department, to a table stationed by two police officers talking about safety tips for kids and families.

We rode a little train car around an enclosure with other families, got our picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt, where the little guy became instantly shy. Later he would tell me he was worried Sir Topham Hatt would be ‘cross’ with him, something that is a frequent habit when the trains do something wrong on the show.

Then, with a large whistle and puff of steam, along the tracks came Thomas, bright blue and red, pulling passenger cars behind him. Together, the three of us made our way inside, up stairs, down an overpass and back down to the other side of the tracks. As passengers from a previous ride got off, we walked up to the front of the train, where Thomas greeted us. Eyes and mouth moving, he literally came to life in front of us, and our little guy ‘beamed, from buffer to buffer,’ as they say.

Soon after, we boarded, the familiar sounds of songs from the show playing in the train and before we knew it, we were off, Thomas us pushing us about 15 minutes out of town, through a marsh, and our little guy glued to the window the whole time.

train 01He sang, surprising us with how many of the songs he knew and sang right along with, and pointed out all the characters that decorated the train windows as decals. He even got a certificate declaring him a Junior Conductor.

When the train returned to the station about a half hour later, we decided to hit up some of the other activities. I was relieved we had gotten pictures with Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt out of the way early on, as the lines at this point had grown crazy. Not good for an antsy child.

He gravitated toward a sand table, digging his hands into the gritty brown stuff, made a little wet by the myriad of constant bubbles coming from a machine nearby and saturating all the sand. He pushed trucks through it, let it sift through his hands…and then suddenly decided to tell other kids coming and playing in it that they couldn’t use the toys. We raised our voices and he begrudgingly conceded. When it happened again, we decided it was time to move on. We gave him one minute to wrap up. It wasn’t long before that minute arrived and we told him it was time to head to the gift shop before heading out.

And then came the meltdown.

Face red,eyes squinted. Mouth gaping open, wailing and screaming as if I was hurting him. All because it was time to move on.

I felt like the eyes of every parents and child at the train station in that moment were on us, wondering what the heck we were doing. Telling him we were going, asking him to take a breath and count to four, talking to him, being stern – nothing worked. It was a mess.

By the time we got to the car and loaded back up, he stopped screaming but was whiny, and we talked about our displeasure, discussing wiith him why he was being bad and had to go. I know. I know. Terrible Twos. Threenager. I’ve heard ‘em all. But in those moments, it doesn’t make it any easier.

We drove around in the car, making a stop to grab some cat food and then grabbing some lunch. By this time, he was calm, but tired. We even had trouble getting him to stand up in line. He kept doing the ‘jelly knees’ where he’d go limp and we’d be forced to continually try to pick him up just to make it to a table.

By the time lunch was over, and he held his head in that little hand, he finally admitted that he was tired. It was somewhat after noon and we were approaching what would normally be nap time.

And, whether sleep-deprived or just plain loopy, he turned to me and said “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!”

As much as the meltdowns drive me nuts, causing me to question absolutely everything I do as a parent, looking at the day as a whole, they were a pretty small fraction. When I look past that (knowing we’re working to deal with it as best we can), and think of that boy who was bounding with a smile so big it was as if his face developed extra muscles at the site of Thomas, the laughter and awe as he looked out the window of the moving train, I realize, it was a pretty damn good day.


It's always a train wreck trying to get him away.

It’s always a train wreck trying to get him away.

Colorful book covers surround you at every turn, enticing you to crack open the spine and see what magic lies inside these children’s tales. A small stage where storytimes are held, entrancing children with tales of wonder. In a corner, a wooden table adorned with wooden train tracks, and little toy versions of Thomas and his Friends. And the blood curdling scream of a child who refuses to leave that table when it’s time to go.

Oh, wait. That child is ours.

And as the other children at the table look around at each other to fathom the situation, a familiar face to us, an employee of Barnes and Noble comes over to ask if everybody was okay and if anyone was hurt.

Only my pride. Only my pride.

You see, this has, unfortunately been more of the trend recently when we go to Barnes and Noble.

When he first started showing an interest in it, the challenge was getting him to not take the trains out of the hands of other kids who would either come over to play or already be there when we arrived.

He’s gotten much better at that, thankfully, so there are baby steps in the right direction.

But when it’s time to leave, look out. He wants to hear nothing but the little world in front of him and whether it be advance warning (“You can play for a bit more, buddy, but then we have to go” or the follow-up some time later that “We have to go now”) are met with a blood curdling “No! No! No! Noooooo!!!” that then devolves into very loud screaming and crying.

He’s 2 1/2 and I know that these are the times when we’re all trying to communicate with each other and he is still trying to understand and effectively communicate the many emotions he’s feeling. But I admit, in the heat of the moment, it can be rough.

As we resort to picking him up and carrying him out of the Children’s Section, a slew of questions fly through our brain:

  • Did we do the right thing?
  • Is everyone in this store staring at us?
  • Why is he SO angry?
  • Are we bad parents?
  • Are we raising a brat?

We’re hoping this is a phase. We work with him and talk with him all the time about sharing, behavior, both at home and in public, but sometimes it just can be all too much.

It’s a work in progress, but not without some bumps along the way.



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