A tale of many tractors
Farming equipment has taken over our lives. And I don’t mean because we’ve suddenly decided to plant corn or come into possession of a combine. No, friends: this is strictly, completely about tractors.
Daily conversations with our 2-year-old:
“Hi, Ollie — good morning! How did you sleep?” “Good. Yes. Tractors.” ... “Ollie, are you hungry? Do you want some lunch?”
“Where’s tractor? Eat. Where’d it go? . . . Tractors.”
“Ollie, do you want to read a book? Can you find a book for Mommy?” “Tractor book?” “Here’s your milk, Ollie. Can you say thank you?” “Thank you, tractors.” And on. And on. And on. Having both a son and tiny daughter, gender norms are often on my mind. My husband and I talk about how we will try to encourage the kids to be close growing up, and part of that is not actively labeling items as “boy” or “girl” toys. Girls can play with monster trucks, and boys can host teddy bears at tea. I’m certainly not going to tell them otherwise.
That being said, nature versus nurture comes into play with my little guy — interesting to think about. Whether we consciously or subconsciously encouraged his tractor obsession based on gender norms at first, we’re certainly fueling it by allowing him to watch videos of his favorite machinery. He can’t find the tractors himself on YouTube (yet); he needs us to search for them. We’re subtly endorsing it by doing said search, right?
OK. A little heavy. But these are the questions I ask myself at 2 a.m.
So the kid probably has 100 words in his arsenal right now, and they’re all used to vividly ask to play with tractors, find his actual toy tractors (commandeered by “man,” of course) and — worst yet — watch farming videos.
We used to play little songs for Ollie when we were desperate for the peace and quiet only screen time can offer: animated children’s rhymes like “The Wheels on the Bus.” And that was fine. I came to know the videos by heart, but that’s true of everything my son watches on repeat. Recent offenders have been “Home” and the ever-popular “Despicable Me” plus its spin-offs.
Dovetailing with Ollie’s tractor obsession is, of course, a request to see tractors. He loses his toddler mind upon hearing Spencer’s riding mower start up in the garage. Ollie also watches, rapt and delighted, when our neighbors are cutting their grass.
Nothing beats watching tractors from the comfort of one’s high chair, however. Oliver wants to be on the farm from the moment his eyes pop open to the second we wrestle him back down at night.
“We watch tractors? Tractors?” “Okay,” I say. “In a minute.” Five seconds later: “Tractors. Mommy? Mommy!”
“Yes,” I repeat, usually mid-diaper change with Hadley or trying to run to the restroom or attempting to return a phone call.
Toddlers have little sense of time, of course; it does no good to express a wait to Oliver in minutes, or to remind him we’ll do something tomorrow. Not yet, anyway. But we have to start somewhere. And it’s better than saying no, a word he certainly understands; refusal prompts an immediate reaction . . . one that, after a long day, my head can’t always handle.
And so we inevitably cave to “just a few minutes” of screen time: lately farming equipment methodically working fields. These videos are likely drone-gathered footage of machinery without voiceovers or cutesy graphics. Ollie could care less for silly cartoon tractors, funny voices or obnoxious theme songs; I mean, come on. Does he look like some kind of amateur?
After searching YouTube and hearing “no” at every animated version, we finally realized Oliver just wanted to see real tractors at work.
Which is, of course, incredibly dull.
I mean no offense to the good, hardworking folks of Southern Maryland who may or may not be riding tractors today. To me, watching this machinery from the outside is the equivalent of watching golf on a Sunday afternoon: dry, but soothing in a way. One that promotes solid napping.
These tractor videos? I’d rather indefinitely polish my ‘Minion’ gibberish than have soundless farm footage as our only source of family entertainment. But I’ve realized what many of you already know about being parent: we’re happy when our children are happy.
These phases can be brief, or they can morph into lifelong interests. According to his mother, my husband has always been . . . himself, even as a little kid: requesting post hole diggers for Christmas; deconstructing lamps and piecing them back together; conducting scientific experiments — otherwise known as cooking — before his parents woke on weekends.
Maybe Ollie will abandon tractors tomorrow, or maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll become a farmer. Or an attorney. Or an artist.
But already I’m the clear and articulated “Mommy,” not Mama. Someday all too soon I won’t be able to smooth the cracks in my son’s world with the promise of seeing a potato harvest.
So for now? We’ll go with it. Play along. And likely learn a few things about agriculture.
You’re not going to get that from the Minions.