Over the last couple of weeks, my youngest has discovered what it is to fall in love. Until recently, the only thing he was obsessed by was Mummy, but what started as merely a keen interest in trains has developed into full blown infatuation with all things Thomas the Tank Engine. This process has happened so quickly that I feel like I am looking at a different child all of a sudden, one with a very developed sense of what he wants and how he is going to get it. And what he wants is Thomas.
Baby T has always been strong-minded. However, until he developed this obsession, he was fairly easy to steer and his anger at being deprived of a particular thing was short lived, as long as you waved a shiny object in front of him as a distraction. This has now definitely changed. Screw the shiny object. If it ain’t Thomas, it sure as hell isn’t going to cut the mustard.
I’m pretty sure most parents have experienced toddler obsession. My eldest was into cars in a big way and the second was never without her much loved bear. For T it is the little smiley trains, accompanied by the soothing tones of Ringo Starr (and later soundalikes).
T carries small trains around all day – one in each chubby mitt. He brings me the remote control, points at the TV and says “choo choo”. We have a train track permanently set up in one room and if I dare to suggest a pause in play, or even that he put the trains down while I put his arms into his sleeves, all hell breaks loose. Obsession well and truly established.
It can be difficult to manage toddler obsession – the tantrums are definitely building because of it – but it is also fascinating to watch. It is a first love, unadulterated by the restraints adults impose upon their emotions, and it is all consuming.
For parents, it is a first realisation that their little bundle has learnt to have intense feelings for something beyond his family. It is a huge milestone and the very beginning of moving a tiny, wee step into independent thoughts, desires, loves and hates.
I’m certainly not adverse to a bit of obsessive behaviour myself, even as an adult. I dare say most of us have at some time been consumed by a love for something or someone that has bordered on obsession. There is a reason why people liken love to madness: it can spill over into infatuation and fill your head and heart. Watching this obsession grow in it’s pure state for the very first time in a toddler really makes you realise how strong it is, and how far we have to come as we grow up, in order to function as adults without spinning off into a screaming rage every five minutes.
As we grow, we work out how to keep this incredible passion in check – but T is a very long way away from that right now. I don’t see many signs of it in his behaviour yet, but I know that tiny changes in his brain are happening all the time, as his understanding grows and he learns to control his emotions. One day, hopefully soon, he will understand that it is OK to put a train down for a brief moment while you get your coat on. Eventually, it will be OK to leave the trains while we go out. And one day, he will be able to put whatever his latest obsession is to one side in order to concentrate on something else for a while.
For now, there is nothing in the world but Thomas and Mummy, with a bit of space left for Daddy and his siblings. There is simply nothing better than sitting in the crook of Mummy’s arm and watching Thomas on a loop. He becomes totally absorbed by chugging trains telling stories he doesn’t understand, and the look on his face is adorable. It seems sad in a way that this intensity of feeling has to be tamed, but imagine a life where we all worshiped everyday things with such ferocity.
I love that my small people feel so strongly about things. Yes, they only feel like that about Thomas or Peppa Pig at this age but one day it will be about grown-up things, people, causes. All three have strong wills and minds of their own, which they are learning to understand, train and control, so that they can achieve what they want to, without resorting to screaming.
And my job in all this? It certainly isn’t to control my kids, at least not in the long term. It is to help them work out how to control themselves, to manage their passions. This is more than a little daunting, when faced with my little bundle of rage screaming through his entire bath and bed routine because I called time on Thomas for the day. Luckily, it is something kids learn as they grow, with a little guidance. Bit by bit, every day moving a little closer.
Whilst I will try to help them learn to manage their passion, I do hope they keep it. A passionate kid doesn’t make for an easy ride, as a parent, but it can make for some kick-ass, strong, amazing young people who can do great things.
So, keep the passion, Baby T. I can handle the tantrums while you learn, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth the pain.
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