All aboard the Train Wreck Express, a trip that begins with the twinkle in a three-year-old boys’ eyes. If you’re a parent, you’ve surely ridden this runaway train before.
Usually the object that has enchanted the child is a toy. He wants it more than anything in the world. That is until the next toy comes along and grabs his attention.
Sometimes you tell him no, he cannot have it. You don’t want to spoil him and he’s already got too many toys. But more often than you like to admit, you cave in. You buy the toy, because, well, it’s hard to say no to a child. Because it’s only ten or twenty or thirty bucks, and what price is not worth keeping that child from pitching a fit and turning you, the parent, into a toy-depriving monster.
Even as you’re taking that toy off the shelf, you see the disaster that will ensue. Either you will find your child melting down while you cut your path through the labyrinth of wires that strap the toy in. Or you will spend hours late into the night mumbling profanities into the air while piecing together hundreds of little parts. All so that your child can play with the toy that will keep his attention for maybe a day or a week or a month before it is cast aside into the overpopulated Island of Unwanted Toys that is the child’s closet.
This time, however, the twinkle in the three-year-old boys’ eyes was due not to a toy but to a gingerbread train. More precisely, it was the picture of a gingerbread train on a box. A box that contained a kit to build a two-car gingerbread train.
Upon seeing that gleam in his boys’ eyes, Daddy made a deal that he will forever live to regret. The boy could have the gingerbread train but it would mean that he would not get the toy promised him.
“You understand, right?” Daddy asked, bending down on one knee to look his boy in those eyes. The boy nods.
Daddy wants more of an assurance. A three-year-olds’ promise means less than that of a used-car dealer. “If we get you this, you don’t get a toy? You’re okay with that?”
Again, the boy nods.
There are unspoken house rules. I’m sure the arrangements are slightly different in all houses, but they exist in some form or another in just about all households. In our house, the unspoken rule is that Daddy doesn’t do craft projects. This is in the best interests of the child. Because you don’t want to see a craft project turn ugly, and you don’t want to expose a child to the words that might make their way out of Daddy’s mouth when it inevitably does turn ugly.
So when Daddy put that gingerbread train kit in the cart, he did so thinking two things: (1) it was a craft project; and (2) house rules apply. That house rule derailed because Mommy had to cook — and the boy wanted his gingerbread train.
Any box that has the words “easy assembly” or “build it in minutes” on it is a box that you will wish you’d never opened. After a quick review of the directions, however, I had actually deluded myself into thinking that this might just be a project that I could do without letting loose an unguided F-bomb within earshot of my three-year-old. The gingerbread was pre-baked. There was an “E-Z Build Tray for quick assembly.” The rest would just be icing on, well, the gingerbread.
From the first simple instruction where I cut off way more of the icing pack tip than prescribed, I knew that I’d bitten off way more than I could chew. The boy who wanted nothing more than to help his Daddy did nothing more than make his Daddy jittery. The more the boy leaned on Daddy the more mistakes Daddy made.
Sensing the looming disaster, the boy cries, “Mommy, help Daddy.” Just as the gingerbread train is about to run away and its conductor is about to lose it, it somehow magically finds its way back onto that “E-Z Build Tray.”
Finally, the boy gets to join in the fun. Little candies spill all over the floor. Some make their way into the boy’s mouth. A few even find their way to the proper places, on the gingerbread train. When it’s all done, Daddy looks at the picture on the box and then at what he and his son have created.
The Train Wreck Express is by no means of work of art. But it has its charms. Its days, of course, are numbered. Because not long from now, it will disappear with the chant of “Chew! Chew!”