Over the short course of his life so far, J-Bone has developed a deep, abiding love of Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends.
It began with Netflix. Dr L exposed him to the original series, which she’d enjoyed as a kid, and he latched onto it in a big way, watching it regularly after his tea before bed for weeks.
The obsession then shifted into the printed form when a cache of Thomas books and annuals were inherited from older cousins. Almost every bedtime involves a plea for them to be read. When he isn’t reading them, he’ll often line them up on the floor.
But as Dr L and I read the books, the stories and the tone began to grate against our sensibilities. Everyone is so mean. CBeebies has its faults, but the world of Thomas comes direct from the school corridors of the 1940s.
As with Enid Blyton, engines must be put in their place, humiliated, shouted at by the constantly peeved Fat Controller until they learn to be ‘Really Useful Engines’. It’s not the kind of message that I want J to take away from bedtime stories. It’s bad enough when I lose my cool without Sir Topham Hat lending the whole approach some extra authority.
I’ve taken the decision at times to slightly bowdlerise the text and substitute Topham’s ‘shouting’ for ‘saying’. Dr L pretty much refuses to read them at all. Censorship, eh? How could have thunk that?
The third leg of J’s fascination is the magazine. Every trip to Tesco or the Co-op begins with him darting over to the ‘dabadeen’ section to see if the latest edition of Thomas has hit the shelves.
Each edition has a small model version of trains from the series. However, things took a disturbing turn when J-Bone decided to rip the faces off every single train. Then line them all up on the kitchen table. Not scary behaviour at all. Nope.
So, we keep looking to steer him towards other books at bedtime, trying to temper the message of authoritarian anger, escaping the tedium of reading the same few stories over and again.
Maybe ‘Chuggington’ is the answer…