Choo-Choos and the Art of Slowing Down

Ding Ding Gates (Photo courtesy iStock Photos)

Like most grownups, I was always in a hurry. There are places to go, people to see, and things to do — don’t we all? Thus, nothing could irritate me more than the railroad crossing gates about a mile from my house. I could have sworn that the city installed a sensor to start flashing at the tracks when I was 200 feet away, and the certainty of this happening increased in direct correlation to how much of a hurry I was in to get to the other side. If I could have hatred toward an inanimate object, then the rail road crossing gate was it.

Then I had a baby boy.

This baby boy grew into a toddler who became fascinated with trains.

He watched all of the “Thomas the Train” episodes on video but still wanted more. We got him toy trains with names like Percy, Thomas, Gordon, and Henry. He rolled these trains on imaginary tracks on our carpeted floor, replaying the episodes he had just watched on the TV screen. He could even imitate the British accent of the narrator of the show, Ringo Starr. “The freight train, oh the freight train,” my toddler would cry as he reenacted one scene where a freight train collides with an engine. Trains became his obsession.

One day, as we were speeding to get to somewhere on the other side of the train tracks, sure enough the red lights started to flash and the gates began to lower. “Oh man,” I sighed impatiently as I slammed on the brakes.

“Ding ding gates!” squealed my little passenger in the back seat.

I turned around to see a toddler excitedly kicking his feet and clapping his hands. “Choo-choo, Mommy! Choo-choo!” he cried as he peered out his window to see a train approaching.

Whoosh! The Amtrak train whizzed by, creating a rhythmic sound as the wheels tumbled over the tracks.

Da-dan, dadan. Da-dan, dadan…

My son’s eyes grew wide and his chin hit the car seat. When the train passed and the lights stopped flashing, he let out a cheer as if he had just seen the greatest show on earth. “Yaay, mommy! Choo-choo twain!” The opening of the gates jarred us back to reality, and I stepped on the pedal to roll over the tracks to get to our destination.

How did I time that so well? I patted myself on the back.

From that moment on, I was a changed mom. No longer were the flashing gates an inconvenience. Rather, they became a delight. Nay — an obsession. I HAD to time my driving to catch the commuter train’s passing, for my baby’s sake.

I checked the train schedule online to time my crossing just right. I slowed down or sped up to reach the gates, preferably at the front of the line. I learned to ignore honking cars irritated by my erratic driving skills. I chose to drive routes far out of the way just so that I could go over the train tracks. Anything for my child!

And if we were successful in catching the flashing gates coming down right in front of us, I no longer felt bothered but cheered along with my son. “Yesss–Jackpot! Ding ding gates!”

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Anyone else have an experience where your child helped to completely change your attitude about something? Did your child help slow you down like mine did to me? Let’s share stories in the comments below!

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