Hard not to inhale deeply at today's Mail story about the "little boy trapped in the world of Thomas the Tank Engine". It can't have been only me thinking, 'There but for the grace of God.....' Yet there is one big difference between Louis' Thomas obsession and the boy in the article: I'm trying not to let Louis find out that the Thomas of his many books also moonlights as a television star. Not because I think TV is inherently evil, as the piece goes on to imply, but just because I. Can't. Take. Any. More. Thomas.
Can someone explain what it is about the cheeky tank engine? Personally, I can't imagine a more boring series of books. Especially if you're *lucky* enough to own some of the original stories. Back then, children's authors didn't mince their words so the trains' adventures are described in full technical glory. There are sidings; couplings; buffers; and many, many more trainspotting terms that I don't understand let alone a toddler. Yet he couldn't be more gripped. Night, after night - with plenty of mornings, mid-mornings, pre-lunchtime naps, and mid-afternoons thrown in for good measure - it's Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. Not forgetting the hours spent pushing mini Thomas and pals round his own train tracks.
Bizarrely, I think the obsession was triggered by a cook book. A free one I got sent at work uselessly telling you how to make all sorts of impossibly different character cakes. I brought it home, Louis discovered it, and would spend hours getting me to explain how you make a Thomas cake. But I also blame the person who gave him two Thomas books for his first birthday! (If only the bump in her tummy was male, I could get my own back, but alas!)
(That said, Thomas did - briefly - become cool last night when Louis discovered an interactive Thomas playmat in his friend Yoppy's room that translated every single Thomas train into Japanese. I liked "Hen-ly" and "Haloldy" best. I want it!)
It was interesting, though, that the Mail piece, which was based on a paper published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics, used evidence of the boy's fixation to rail against television. Louis is (almost) as into Thomas and yet he takes all his stories from an old-fashioned book. I personally think TV can be an excellent teacher - as does Desmond Morris we learnt last week. Plus, I'll never forget one taxi driver crediting the Disney channel for his 12-month-old daughter already being able to count up to ten. And the lessons Louis learns from Charlie and Lola are invaluable. Not to mention the vocab. Perhaps the trick is just not to let him find out that there's such a thing as a Thomas DVD....