Monday, June 26, 2017

Parenthood: Week 210 – Thomas The Magic School Bus

Ollie carries it with him around the house and he lovingly cuddles with it when he goes to sleep.  He brings it into the car and we have to convince him not to bring it everywhere. It’s not a blanket or stuffed animal, it’s a Thomas The Train, pullback racer. It’s a plastic version of Thomas The Train, which is bigger than the toy that can fit on the tracks and it has wheels that wind back when you pull him backwards and upon releasing he moves forward.

I picked up this toy on a whim when Ollie was just about a year old and while it’s been around the house he has never shown great interest in this toy.  Something happened a couple weeks ago. I’m not sure what, but every since then, it’s been all about this toy train.

We have a couple theories about what may have led to his love of this toy. I think it may have had to do with his decision to stop sucking his thumb, but Diana’s theory is probably closer to the truth.

The story of how Ollie came to love and snuggle with a Thomas The Train toy after never seeing the television show is revealing about Ollie and our parenting style.

Diana and I were getting pretty tired of Moana. Ollie had been watching this film whenever we gave him his half hour of television time a day and was listening to the soundtrack all of the time. To get him onto something else, Diana watched the Pixar film Up with Ollie. The part of the up that stuck with Ollie the most was not the talking dogs, but the clouds. At a certain point in the film they describe the clouds as being "cumulous nimbus" and this stuck with Ollie.

What followed can only be described as a “study in clouds.” Ollie would sit down and draw clouds, over and over. We were getting backpacks full of pictures of clouds he drew at school. One day, I literally pulled out a dozen sheets of paper on which Ollie had drawn clouds.

To nurture Ollie’s interest in clouds, I showed him every clip I could find that talked about clouds and the different types. Then I remembered a Magic School Bus book that talked about the water cycle that I had when I was a kid. I also remember the television show, which I never watched, but I new existed. Not having the book, and wanting to nurture his interest, I bought the water cycle episode of The Magic School Bus and showed it to him. Ollie loved the episode and when I explained that the show was based on a book series, Ollie got really excited.

The next day I took Ollie to the library and we checked out almost every single Magic School Bus book we could find. For the following week, Ollie was obsessed with the Magic School Bus books and the television show.

At some point, Ollie decided that this Thomas The Train toy was a good substitute for the Magic School Bus, so he stared to carry it around pretending it was the Magic School Bus. This pretending game would sometimes last for a solid ten minutes of Ollie running around the house, holding this toy and pretending that it was the Magic School Bus exploring space or the water cycle.

Now, Ollie carries that Magic School Bus toy around everywhere.  Now you know why.  We could get Ollie an actual school bus toy or explain to him the story of Thomas The Train, but right now he seems content playing with this toy as if it was the Magic School Bus.

It's somewhat baffling, wonderfully charming and awesomely four-year old.

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