Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Losing Thomas?

As I chose a shirt for Richie the other day, we talked about how his Thomas shirts and so many others are getting too small.  The shirts he's worn for a long time are almost in belly-button showing status.

"Guess we'll have to get me some bigger Thomas shirts, Mom!"

Then I didn't even really think and mentioned that he's getting big, and for some reason Thomas shirts are harder to find.  He followed with something I'd hoped to avoid.

"Yeah.  Lots of kids don't like Thomas though."

Ugh.  I was hoping you wouldn't notice.

You're right, kiddo.  And what a loaded statement.  Well, in this house it's loaded.  We are definitely a Thomas and Friends entrenched household.  I have no problems with this.  I grew up in a train town, and love trains myself.  Secretly I'd hoped my boys, if I had any, would be Thomas fans. Boy, did I ever get my wish!  We have a cabinet for the Take-N-Play kind in the big closet in the living room.  We have a train table for the wooden kind... not the cool Thomas kind because holy cheese, they want half a year of college tuition for one of those things!  The generic kind does quite nicely.

Then there's Trackmaster.  Those are Ryan's favorites, the ones he was banned from for about three years while he grew and developed and got over Hiro.  Click here to hear about that mess. Those are mostly kept on the train table among the wooden tracks, while a few remain in a random box in the living room.

We have two Thomas comforters, Thomas room stickers, Thomas hats, Thomas pj's, Thomas pillows, Thomas stuffies, and Thomas DVD's. Every time the kids get a new train, the one page colorful catalog that comes with it is cherished literally to pieces.  Even Maelynn can name almost all of the forty-plus trains on the last one.  As I type, they sing along to Thomas songs on Youtube videos made by kids and parents.  We catch ourselves saying that we're not feeling "very useful" today, and the kids are constantly saying "bust my buffers" or some other Thomas-ism.

Until now, we've been safely enclosed in our own little rail-driven world.  With one exception that I know of, that is.

Richie is in preschool again this year for just this reason.  I want to give him another year to grow in what it means to be Richie before I send him to an entire day away from me for that long every day.  He's smart, it's not that.  It is, however, that our everyday life is so different.

Yes, he will get picked on, if he's anything like his parents, even if he likes what the other kids like.  But here's the thing.  I don't want him to like something different just because some other kid said that what he likes is stupid.

His brother is eight and loves Thomas.  So our house will likely be steeped in Thomas for years to come.  I can't see that changing anytime soon, and not just because I shudder to think how many dollars we and our families have invested in all their gear.

I hope and pray that he will love what he loves for the sake of loving it, whatever he does.  That he will do his best because that is what he is supposed to do as a child of God.  Not for any kind of praise from other people, but because he should put something wonderful into the world.

That said, I also can't help but hope that he'll keep loving Thomas because it's something he and Ryan do together.  I'm frightened by the day when Ryan asks him to play... which is amazing to me, and quite recent... and he says no.  The idea that he would grow out of the one thing his brother loves makes me so sad.

Here's the other thing.  He will.

There will very likely be a day when he only plays with Thomas to be with his brother.  There might come a day when Ryan is still constructing tracks and sets and Richie is on to other things.

And that's where the reality sets in.  I'm not afraid of losing Thomas.  I'm afraid of the contrast when Richie passes his brother so very obviously, not that he hasn't already.

I'm afraid of more reality like the magical age of five.  When Ryan turned five, it was almost like everyone who thought I was overreacting by worrying about his development began to see that I might have a point.

In so many ways, Richie is our oldest.  There are so many things we've not experienced because of the autism rabbit hole phenomenon.  Even while Ryan grows and changes and "gets better" in different ways, the gap continues to widen between his age and size and the things folks generally expect from kids his age and size.

I worry about their hearts being broken, too, when someone notices that their brother is different.

I see how they love Ryan, and how Ryan loves them in his way.  How he says, "achoo" when he kisses his sister goodnight.  I see the sweet way he takes Richie's hand and says, "come play, Richie" in his newscaster voice.

And I hope they will always love Thomas.  I hope that as long as that is their way to Ryan, that they will love that little blue train and his friends right alongside him.

They will likely have their moments.  They will make poor decisions, just like they did this morning refusing to take turns.  I pray that we'll love them through their poor decision making moments just as much as we do in their good decision making moments.  And that they'll be free to grow in the grace and truth and mercy of Christ as they make all their decisions, from now to way past my exit from the earth.

Thanks be to God for the common thread... er, rail... that has bound them thus far.  And much prayer that the thread of their love for each other will grow stronger than the rails.

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