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No Thomas the Tank Engine for My Boy

Photograph by Getty Images

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 wheelchairs.”)

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 pond.

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.

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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.

RELATED: Funny Kid Shaming

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 all.

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.

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