Ethan's question a few days ago threw me for a loop. I've written about our foibles with the train table. For the past few months it has sat, untouched, with broken tracks heaped all over the place. After the peeing incident, I'd basically called the thing a loss and was just trying to figure out how to get rid of it.
This afternoon, we were up in his room. Ethan had gotten out of school early. The jumbled tracks stared at me again.
"Eth, do you want to fix the tracks?" I asked gingerly.
"Yeah!" he replied.
I looked at the train table and tried to see through my son's eyes.
"Do you want all this stuff on it?" I asked him, referring to Cranky the Crane, the helicopter landing pad/hospital, the water tower, and various other Island of Sodor accoutrements. I realized I had never asked him. I had just forced on him my idea of what the perfect train table set-up would be.
The extras all went on the floor. I focused on putting together one simple track. Ethan helped. I watched the way he tried to fit the tracks together, understanding the basics but not getting, at first, that you could flip the curving tracks over and they would curve in the opposite direction. I thought about how frustrating and how much more time consuming would be to put tracks together without understanding that.
We had one circular route done, but Ethan wanted more.
"The rest of the tracks are downstairs. Do you want me to get them?" I asked.
I bounced down the stairs, full of light, a bit giddy. He's playing with the trains...he's playing with the trains...
We built more tracks. When we ran into an impossible connection, Ethan wrote it off as a dead end (oh, how he loves dead ends) and started a new way. Two more times I went downstairs to get more tracks. We played like this for a half-hour, until we had to pick up Anna from school.
I have no idea if Ethan is going to play with the train table tomorrow. He may go back to his "human tornado" routine and smash the whole thing to smitherines. He may let what we've built sit there frozen in time for another few months.