Return to Sodor

They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight…

He’s baaaa-aaaaack. Like a flashback from our early parenting days.

My youngest has recently proven a highly scientific hypothesis of mine that I’ve firmly believed since 2008: Either your kid has the Thomas the Tank Engine gene, or (s)he doesn’t. While my daughter never cared much for the shiny blue engine, my two boys are 100% Thomas Nation.

My oldest, who will be eight this month (sob – howwwww can this be?) was utterly obsessed with every engine on the island of Sodor. It was cute for a while, how he memorized each engine’s face and talked about coal tenders and the difference between “steamies” and diesels. Like millions of suckers who have gone before us, we thought this was adorable and slowly fostered this interest by amassing Thomas trains, tracks and accessories that evolved from a collection to an investment. We began to wonder how there was no tax write-off opportunity for this expense.

He needed a train in his hand to go anywhere. Then a train in both hands. Then a full line-up around the perimeter of his crib at night. He scolded us for not knowing the difference between Edward and Percy. The mere introductory bars of the Thomas theme song would render him giddy. His utensils and cups where Thomas. His shirts. His books. He loved it all.

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And slowly, like millions of reformed suckers before us, we began to notice that maybe Sodor was not such a cute place. The engines were all pretty whiny. Stupid accidents always happened on the tracks, which were ultimately met with disdain by Sir Topham Hatt, the head of the railway.

“You have caused confusion and delay,” my oldest would boom with imitation, in his adorable toddler voice.

But really, Sir Topham Hatt was kind of an asshole. It didn’t matter, though — nothing was getting our family out of the grips of Sodor.

Except time.

I can’t remember exactly when his love for Thomas faded, but it was gradual. It wasn’t so much that he stopped liking Thomas, but he just slowly began requesting the likes of Lightning McQueen or Buzz Lightyear more. But somehow, the engines strewn across the carpet became fewer and the hours spent at the train table, configuring the tracks, dwindled.

It seemed like light years ago. Until recently.

As if on biological cue, my youngest, at age 21 months, suddenly began to pick up and express interest in some of the old trains now relegated to out-of-the-way bins. They shared shelf space with Legos and Ninja Turtles and Star Wars characters — all the figures that had replaced Sodor’s importance in our home over time, and rarely seen the light of day in recent years.

“Choooo chooooo.”

This is the sound of my youngest, upon waking up. Upon leaving the house without a train in hand. Upon handing me the remote control in anticipation of seeing the shiny blue engine and his cohorts.

Aaaaaand we’re back.

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Some things have changed on Sodor since we were last held hostage there. Naturally, some shiny new engines (even electric ones) have been added, presumably with endless companion merchandise opportunities. The newer episodes are finally an industry standard 30 minutes in length, instead of the old 10-minute duration that allowed moms to get exactly zero done while their children were under the mesmerized grips of the engines. So, thanks for that. At least I can get a meal prepped while my toddler’s brain rots.

The biggest change, though, is watching my oldest, who now far prefers to discuss the Millennium Falcon and the secrets of the young Jedi, as he sees his younger brother giddy about the engines. He’s sort of watching, sort of pretending not to be interested. But that pull, although distant, is there. He’ll ask with innocence, “Who is that engine again?” and my heart will sort of break.

“That’s PERCY. You remember Percy?”

“Yeah, sort of, a little.”

“He delivers the mail. He’s the green one. Number 6!

You would’ve taken a bullet for him six years ago, I want to say.

“Oh yeah, Percy. And Mom — isn’t Sir Topham Hatt a little rude?”

Yep, things are still the same too. The whiny engines and the ridiculous, avoidable calamities. It’s a lot like the formula from a Three’s Company episode, minus the sexual innuendo and Mr. Roper. But equally annoying on a consistent basis.

So, here we are again. Last weekend, we took the old train table down from the attic and set it up with the tracks and the trains. The baby was thrilled. His older brother often joins him at that table, and tells him how to set things up and where everything goes. Like it’s slowly coming back to him.

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It’s sweet and nostalgic.

Even when it’s a little annoying.

Chooooo chooooo.


{Unrelated to trains and far less annoying than Thomas: I’m so excited to be included in a new humor anthology about parenting: I Still Just Want to Pee Alone. Yep, it’s the third installment in the series and — fun fact here — the original just made the NY Times Bestseller list!}



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  1. Madbint says:

    Thanks for sharing this, it bought back so many memories of when my boys were little. My youngest, especially, was OBSESSED with all things Thomas and had over 100 of them all over the house. It was a sad day when he gifted them all to his little cousin.

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