Everything my son needed to know about life, he learned from Thomas the Tank Engine

Long ago and far away—except that it really wasn’t that long ago, and it happened right here—my son went through that ubiquitous toddler boy phase known as Train Infatuation. A real train passing by on the tracks was cause for whole-body, quivering excitement. Thomas the Tank Engine coming on the television would cause him to drop everything (except, perhaps, the little mini Thomas which was all but surgically attached to him, at that point), go wide-eyed and slack-jawed, and chant “Twain! TWAINS!” over and over.

I’m not going to lie to you. I would watch these trains roll their eyes around and talk without mouths in Ringo Starr or George Carlin’s voice, and I may have wished for the sweet release that only death or a total cable outage and the magical disappearance of our DVD collection could bring. I perhaps didn’t have the same appreciation of Thomas and his pals as my son did.

But as the years have passed (and even though it’s rarer for him to pull out the bins full of tracks and cars and build Sodor Island in our playroom), I realize that there was important wisdom to be learned, aside from that magical trains don’t need mouths to speak. Here are just a few of the timeless lessons Thomas and his cohorts have imparted:

  • It’s good to be a very useful engine.
  • Hiding in a tunnel to try to keep your paint fresh and shiny can result in getting stuck.
  • Being snotty has repercussions.
  • It’s not nice to play tricks on your friends.
  • It’s uncomfortable to have fish in your boiler.
  • Doing as you’re told is probably the wisest choice.

See? Everything we needed to know. My son concurs.

What? Stop looking at me like that.