Sometimes when you’re watching TV or a Disney movie, and there’s a really touching scene involving children and their parents—usually a culmination scene where a problem between the two parties is worked out—there is often a moment when the parent looks at the child (usually the father) and says, “Have I ever lied to you?” The child usually doesn’t respond because kids are smarter than we give them credit for and they have already rationalized, “I don’t know…have you?” but they know better than to say that out loud, so instead they externalize, “No daddy, you haven’t. I love you!” Then the music cues up, the credits roll and everyone lives happily ever after.
What a crock! Or, at least I hope so because if I’m being honest, I will never be able to utter that line to my oldest son. Does that make me a bad parent?
Let me explain:
If you have boys, then you know who Thomas the Tank Engine is. If you’re unfamiliar, he’s this lovable little blue train made up in the mind of one Reverand Awdry way back in the day. He made up the Thomas character for his sick son, but some marketing genius over in the U.K. figured out what a cool idea it was and it has now become a worldwide phenomenon. And to be sure, we’ve done our part at enlarging the influence of the franchise by purchasing at least $600 worth of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise and associated tracks, a table, etc.
Every year, a full-sized Thomas train comes to Chattanooga, TN, about an hour and a half drive from here. The drive isn’t so bad really, it’s the time of year. It always comes in the summer and quite frankly, the last thing I want to do is spend three hours in a car with my kids, only to stand around in lines with five thousand other people to spend 20 whole minutes riding on a train. It just doesn’t hold appeal for me.
Instead, I took my son to a Thomas and Friends play this weekend at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Hall. At $27.50 a ticket, it was no deal, but I figured after skipping out on the real thing, it was worth it. The play was well done and there were three of his favorite trains in near-life size on the stage, so he had a lot of fun.
There was also a miniature train out in the lobby that you had to buy tickets for to ride. When we arrived, the line was too long to ride, so I told him we’d come out during intermission and ride it, only to discover that the owner of the said train didn’t want it to run during intermission. My son was pretty heartbroken; however, let me explain that just the day before, we had gone to Six Flags and he had ridden two trains, so personally, I didn’t see that this was a big deal.
Not one to miss much, my son said, “Well maybe after the show we can come ride it,” to which I simply responded with the non-committal parental catch-all, “Maybe.”
Our seats were situated in the balcony and I knew that by the time the show was over and we could get downstairs, every other like-minded parent would be ahead of us, so when the show was over, I rushed him downstairs before the train started up and said, “Oh look, the train isn’t running” and then I took him home.
That was bad…I know it was, but I didn’t want to stand in line for an hour to ride a train around in a circle no bigger than our living room….and he had just ridden a train the day before.
To his credit, he didn’t pitch a fit or anything. I was shocked and proud of him at the same time, because if there’s one thing I want my children to be prepared for in life…it’s disappointment. That’s kinda sick though isn’t it?
Hey, I never said I was a good parent.