Friday, July 10, 2009

Who's car-crazy, buddy?

Toddlers are supposed to get overwhelmingly curious fairly early on, but our experience with our particular edition is that he gets fixated about certain categories of objects.

Like cars. And cars. Oh, and cars. The little fella will ignore the garishly-dressed gorilla screaming his name in his ear (we could of course here be merely drawing a less-than-flattering verbal portrait of his father), yet be instantly transfixed by a whispered mention of 'car' at the other end of the room. He'll scamper in that direction, shoving aside anything or anyone that may be in the way, and gibber 'Car, car' as he approaches the approximate location.

In fact, these days, pretty much the only surefire way of distracting him, or grabbing his attention, is to claim that a vehicle is passing our windows or entering the compound. His grandmother is especially skilled at enthusiastically declaring "Hey, look at the big car" with total conviction. You can sometimes play the same trick by invoking "Airplane!", except Sonny is rather scared of aircraft and will sometimes be seized with terror when one is too boisterously reported.

Anyway, one is led to wonder why children - and, or so we are conventionally told, boys especially - develop an early fascination with cars. Mum and Pa can't remember any fixations from their toddlerhoods, but then again they can't remember much of that period of their lives. Maybe it's that motorised rumble, or the way cars zip along enticingly with the sun glinting off the hubcaps and illuminating all those curves. Someone who can only crawl along at 3 miles an hour, or at best totter precariously forward at double that speed (allowing for the odd tumble and slip) is perhaps especially mesmerised by how cars can glide smoothly on their way, accelerating as needed with utter ease.

This is something that many adult would understand, of course. Many of us are all but defined by the extent to which we are in thrall of things, structures or people that are more powerful, stronger or more impressive than we are - so that we are consumed by envy or hunger, and are always seeking an extra glimpse, a closer peek and a fuller view. Looked at from this perspective, a child's car-craziness takes on a more sinister aspect. It begins to sound like a symptom of a character flaw, a covetousness that seeks power or gain to the exclusion of virtue.

We ought to hope, therefore, that Sonny takes a greater interest in the humble ox-cart, for instance, or becomes entranced by the mere mention of a bicycle. Perhaps that would signal a humbler worldview, less grandiose dreams and a healthier mental state.