We took our two-year-old son, Paul, to see a toy train exhibit at
the Botanic Gardens a few weeks ago. It was an experience of fun and delight, mixed with constant herding. I had to do that thing, where you try to soothe
and discipline your kid at the same time, so nobody thinks you're a jerk. (“I
know you’re upset, but there’s a reason why you can’t run in front of people’s
At the exhibit, a guide pointed us to a section
and promised, “He’s going to love this.” We looked, and a train with a face
whizzed by. “It’s Thomas!” she said excitedly. “Thomas!” Paul gazed at the
train for a moment, before running off again.
“Doesn’t he like Thomas?” the nice white-haired lady asked.
“He, uh…” I said, not sure how to play this in a way that was
clear, expedient and polite. “...doesn’t know who Thomas is.”
“No?” she asked. I then launched into my
thing about characters, instantly regretting it, because surely she
didn’t care. But sometimes rambling to a stranger is more fun than carrying a
sobbing two-year-old away from a rickety guardrail overlooking a nearby
I know what you're thinking. I swear, we are not those parents.
Do you want me to pile up all the ways I am not a self-proclaimed, deeply
connected, farm-to-table mama? I convinced my son to watch a half-hour of TV in
bed with me last night, because I was tired. Then I gave him a bowl of cereal
for dinner. I don’t check things for phthalates, and I vaccinate the hell out of
him. Sometimes I laugh at him when he cries about something ridiculous. I
feel pretty normal and not holier-than-thou.
We just aren’t introducing him to well-known kids’
characters at this point. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I
hate most kids’ characters? (I don’t buy into Elmo. He’s a fake bitch, who came
along to signify the best years of Sesame Street were over.) Maybe it’s because
I secretly find my son so stunning that it would pain me to see him wearing
anything loud and obnoxious. Wouldn't it take away from his childhood beauty?
I don’t check things for phthalates, and I vaccinate the hell out of him. Sometimes I laugh at him when he cries about something ridiculous. I feel pretty normal and not holier-than-thou.
It's most probably because I know that stuff is coming sooner or later, and there’s nothing I can do about
it. It’s only a matter of time before he’s into He-Man, the Transformers, the Lone Ranger or whomever all the kids are wild about right now. He’ll even have a say in the matter and would rather die than wear or watch something that isn’t what all his friends are excited
about, so I want to keep him pure and Mickey-, Elmo-, Thomas- or whomever-free
as I can for as long as I can.
Someone asked me the other day what my son is going to be for
Halloween. “A turtle,” I said. “Oh, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?” she asked
brightly?” “No, just a turtle,” I said, probably sounding like a jerk. Maybe I am one of those parents, after
Admitting it is the first step, right?
(Full disclosure: Paul does have a T-shirt on that
features Cookie Monster saying, “I can stop at any time.” I bought it because Paul loves cookies. Not for some love of Cookie Monster.