A few nights ago, my husband had the unexpected good luck to stumble across an imminently-closing eBay auction of a child’s train set – the kind with wooden pieces of track that slot together, and lots of little wooden accessories like cars, buses and buildings. He put in a last-minute bid and picked it up at a bargain price. It arrived today and, this evening, when I got home, we took it out of the box to show Jamie.
He was most interested, looking carefully through the little vehicles ("Sma’ car. Bi’ bus") while we assembled pieces of track. Then he discovered the joys of pulling the assembled pieces of track apart, which was such fun he promptly demanded that we put them together again for a repeat performance. Then he worked out how to put pieces together for himself. After some minutes of this, he found the little bag of road signs and I opened it up for him. It was at this point that I made the tactical error of showing him the miniature painted traffic lights. Jamie regarded these with fairly limited interest at first, and then something seemed to click in his brain.
I hope it will not violate the fiercely-guarded anonymity that I maintain with regard to the precise details of our whereabouts if I tell you that there is a traffic light visible from one of our living room windows. Jamie has never, so far as I know, paid that part of the view any great attention before, but, with the trigger of the toy traffic light, he suddenly seemed to make the connection: Hey, that’s that thing with the button and the bright lights! He pointed emphatically towards the window in, indeed, the right general direction for the traffic light, and insisted on me opening the curtain so that he could look out. He solemnly regarded the blurred red pedestrian light, several yards away from us, that was all that we could see through the window.
"G’ee’ ma’?" he inquired, after a few minutes.
I broke it to him gently that we could not expect any green man sightings in the immediate future. It was a cold and dark night and, although we might get lucky, the odds of any pedestrians wanting to cross in the next few minutes were probably not all that great.
"G’ee’ ma’," he insisted firmly.
"Sorry, little one! Nobody’s there to press the button."
"Pre’ bu’on," he mused thoughtfully. He picked up the nearest remote control, aimed it at the traffic light, and pressed a few likely-looking buttons.
I had to admit that there was a certain logic to this, at least through the eyes of a toddler, even if the laws of physics disagreed. I felt quite bad having to explain to him that, no, the remote control to our old digital video would not actually have any effect on the local traffic light and, by the way, he wasn’t really supposed to be playing with it anyway.
"Pre’ bu’on g’ee ma’," continued The Child With The One Track Mind, attempting to scramble up my legs in the direction of the windowsill and thence, presumably, the traffic light.
"Tomorrow," I told him firmly, falling back on that good old parental standby as I surreptitiously sneaked the remote control into a less obvious spot. "Tomorrow Jamie will get to press the button and see the green man."
And thus it continued on through the evening, until dinner gave him something else to think about. The train set lay forgotten, apart from the tiny painted wooden traffic light, symbol of his greatest desire. Oh, well. Fortunately, tomorrow we have trips planned to the health centre and to Tumbletots, so we will have enough Press Button Green Man opportunities to gladden the heart of the most single-minded of toddlers.