Hit by a Pitch

Train Sets

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train settrain settrain set

I had a teeny tiny train set when I was a kid. It had some tracks and just an engine with no cars. The coolest feature was a u-shaped bridge portion of track that flipped from one side to the other to allow the train to cross. Does that even make sense? A plain old bridge would’ve served the same purpose, but the u-shaped thing that flipped was the coolest, ever. It was the garden-variety kind of toy kids had in the 70s, made of plastic. It instilled in me a deep appreciation of decidedly non-hippie, non-wooden train sets, the kind to which I’d normally be predisposed, I guess you could say.

Soren got a train set last year for Christmas. It sat in boxes under his crib until today. We wanted to wait until he was old enough to handle it. There are some toys you give a kid the second you get them, but some toys have to wait. You have to attain a certain level of maturity as a young boy before you have a train set in your bedroom. This is the toddler version of getting a phone in your room. (I know the phone-in-room thing is over and Soren will not have this experience. I was a teenager. My phone was beige and had push buttons, which was pretty fancy. At first I couldn’t call out on it because we had rotary service. It looked like something you’d find in the office of your first job, which, if you were me, was at a stupid telemarketing place where you called people up to ask for donations so some blind kids could go to a children’s show or some shit. You could pry the piece around the numbers off and hide stuff in there. Of course it had a cord.)

He seemed to like it. His favorite part was flipping the switch on the remote back and forth to make the train start, make noise, stop, start, make noise, stop, start, go backward, etc. Somehow this endeavor set off the smoke/carbon monoxide detector in his room. “Beep! Beep! Evacuate! Smoke in the area.” There was no smoke. Just trains. (No carbon monoxide, either, because you know I freaked out about it for a second.)

Another cool thing about having a kid is that it makes you remember random things from your childhood that were always there in your memory but you didn’t always think to access. Once in a while, I’d think about my little train set maybe around Christmas, when you might think about things like trains set up under trees and how that seems like a cool idea, at least if you don’t have 1,000 animals who would sabotage that shit. But now it’s like, yeah, I had this experience when I was a kid and now I’m passing on that same experience to you.

I think about the experiences we’re passing on to Soren all the time. Sometimes I kind of freak out about it. I hope it’s not just us. Maybe it’s somewhat of a generational thing. I feel like I’m the first in a long time who can’t offer my child a better standard of living than what my parents offered me. It’s a classic tale — my dad and his family were immigrants, United States, better life, etc., and he succeeded at that and I had a cushy life full of skateboards and Barbie dream houses and one day my own (modest, used) car and we lived in a nice house in the suburbs in an area where people were willing to pay taxes to fund schools. And I look at Ben and me and, well, we’re hippies and/or the kind of self-involved Gen-Xers who could make gobs more money than we do (I could’ve gone to BigLaw! But I’d bet you anything that had I done that, I’d be (1) a cokehead or (2) angry and Soren wouldn’t even exist so point = moot and I believe my career choices to date have rendered me untouchable by large law firms now so oops.) but don’t because it kills our souls so we’re dirt poor living in a hovel in the hood and I wonder whether, on some level, being true to myself is worth it in light of the fact that I sometimes feel like I’m failing my child by not giving him the life I had. Maybe we’re doing okay because at least as things stand in 2011, I think, on balance, it’s better to raise a kid a little poor than a little rich because struggle leads to good things and privilege leads to entitlement, but let’s be honest it’s kind of a crapshoot.

Recognizing that a lot of what you do while raising a child is kind of a crapshoot is pretty comforting. We just do the best we can with the information and skills we have, and hope for the best.

Written by Tracy

November 3rd, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Posted in and life

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