Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Water Fight

Apparently I am a very bad parent.  And so is Jennifer.  Just ask our son, especially after bedtime or nap time.  One night last week, at around 10:30 pm, this was the sound echoing through our home:


As he lay in his crib inside his darkened room, our child begged us for the substance that is essential to all life on this planet.  Kyle was not asking for diamonds, rubies, Legos, or other expensive treasures.  No, on this hot summer night, all he wanted on his dry lips was a sip of water, and yet his parents refused to give it to him.  Such inhumanity!

"Waaaaatteerrrr...teerrr... eerrrrrr.  Waaaaaaaah." 

Here's a little detail Kyle might not tell you: about two minutes prior to his pathetic sobbing, his mother was in his room, letting him drink from a full bottle of water.  Fifteen minutes prior to that, his father was doing the same thing.  Not too long before that, one or both of them helped him drink.  All this came after the "going-to-bed" ritual, during which he drank the equivalent of a small town reservoir.  Now, I understand that children his age have a very short memory, but there's no way he could have forgotten all the water he just drank.  It became apparent to me that something else was at play when he started asking for water less than a second after he handed me back the bottle.

"Water please.  Wahhhh-wahhh-wahhh.  Water, water please."

This is Kyle's latest maneuver in the so-called War Against Bedtime, and it's his strongest one yet.  I'm impressed.  Earlier tactics to get his parents to stay in his room involved relentless cries, begging for a blanket or toy he did not have, or throwing up (a rarely-used tactic often followed by the maneuver of actually being sick).  The previous tactics could be easily remedied with a washcloth or ignored.  But when your child is crying desperately for water, and even as going as far as asking nicely with the magic word, it's very hard to sit back, relax and eat dinner, which is what Jennifer and I were trying to do during that night last week. 

Jennifer had come home about a half-hour after Kyle went to bed.  She was tired from a long day of shaving monkeys (I'm really not sure what she does, so I make my best guess).  I had an exhausting day with our own little monkey, and I was in the middle of cleaning up the landfill replica Kyle had created in our living room.  We were both hungry for dinner.  That's when Kyle made his first request for water.  Since Jennifer hadn't seen him yet, we thought that maybe she could give him something to drink and say "hello."  Big mistake.  If you're trying to undermine the War Against Bedtime, the last thing you should do is make personal contact.  It shows weakness, and it makes the little guy act up even more the next time you leave.  We kept hoping that eventally Kyle would get his fill, but he did not quiet down, even after a half-dozen more water deliveries.  We ate our food to the sounds of the screams.  And, even though we knew he had enough water inside him to make it to morning, it was hard for our hearts not to break as the desperate cries echoed throughout the apartment, especially on that hot night.  Kyle had us right where he wanted us. 

That night was a victory for the little guy, and he was certainly eager to celebrate.  He had a big grin on his face as he guzzled down the water, and occasionally he'd pause to chew on the straw and mock us.  The fun, playful Kyle always returned once he had the water in his hands.  Once we pulled it away, he once again acted as if we wrapped him in chains and threw him into the desert.  Had it not been for the body's natural tendency to actually want some sleep, he could have gone throughout the night.  Fortunately he did doze off before eleven o'clock.

Since that wildly successful night in the War Against Bedtime, Kyle has been trying this maneuver every time we put him in his crib for a nap or for the night.  What was once a sweet moment, with one or both parents wishing our little guy a good night's sleep as he smiled and buried his head into his blankets, has turned into boisterous pandemonium, with Kyle crying for his water and kissing him good-night, flinging his blankets into his crib, and running out of the room before he could fling everything back out.  He cries for a little bit after that, but he's starting to notice that we're not coming back.  I think recent days have exposed a miscalculation on his part, too... as the days have become much cooler, we have become less sympathetic.  We know now that he has plenty of water, and he shouldn't be thirsting for more.  Kyle will just have to come up with a new trick, though I'm sure we'll eventually find a way to beat that one, too.  The little guy will certainly win more battles, but there's no question his parents will win the war.

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