A tale of many trac­tors

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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