Monday, August 1, 2011

The downfall of please

I've had a tenacious cold for a week, and so far have had success in keeping it to myself. (Knock on wood.) I wondered vaguely the other day why colds last so much longer than they used to. Partly it's because I'm older; partly, I think, it's because MY CHILDREN DO NOT SLEEP. Ah, children, the first best form of birth control:

Last night I laid down with Maia at about 9:30 and, after getting to sleep, coughed and hacked so much I was having dreams about being a series of mini-storms lost on the ocean, with a vague idea that I had an identity and senses outside of the coughs/gusts but unable to find either. (Partly this is because I'm reading a book that contains a sea-battle.) Maia woke me up sometime in there to re-latch. I woke again when she attached again and got up when she finished, around 1, because the coughing was nauseating me, and decided to sleep in the glider. I got settled there (with the electric kettle, bless Eric) and went to sleep around 1:30. At 3:15 Maia woke up to eat. At 3:30 Chloë woke up with a minor nosebleed, and I went in to help her with Maia still attached. At 3:45 Maia went back to sleep and so did I. At 4:30 Chloë woke up with what seemed like a bad dream and I went in with Maia in my arms. At 5:15 Maia woke up to eat. At 5:45 I put Maia in the bassinet and went back to my bed. At 6:30 Chloë woke up and dragged me out of bed. We climbed up on her bed and she actually went to sleep again for a few minutes with her head on my leg, and then again when we cuddled together on the pillows, but that didn't last long. At 7 Maia started mewling.

I got her, changed her diaper and onesie, and went back to Chloë. She was demonstrating an oppressive amount of energy by jumping all around the bed refusing to lie down for the diaper change she requested (she knows she needs a diaper change and clothes on before going downstairs), and when I yelled at her I realized I was not capable of dealing with both of them that morning, so Eric woke up a little early and took charge of Miss Energy while I fed Maia. At least she behaved for it, instead of popping on and off and grinning innocently at me as she's been doing lately. She fell asleep afterward--I was jealous--and I put her in the swing downstairs and went back up to change clothes for work.

Chloë came up to investigate what I was doing--"Koë check on Mama"--and watched me get into my work clothes. "Mama going hork?" she said.

"That's right," I said. "Come on, let's go downstairs."

She walked to the doorway of our bedroom and stopped. "Mama carry Koë," she said. "Pee."

Since she had seen Maia with me every time I checked on her in the night, this was pretty predictable, and mostly I'm happy to carry her if it will make her feel better. But I felt lousy. I shook my head. "No, sweetie. I still don't feel good."

"Pee. Pee. Pee," she repeated. "Koë tay pee." And my heart twisted, because--and here's the point of the story; this wasn't completely gratuitous whining, honest--she's only recently started really applying "please" with the understanding that it's, well, a magic word. If she asks for something and doesn't say please, we generally wait to respond until she does; once she does, we almost always get her whatever she wants with all speed. She knows that when she says "please," we say "yes." Thus, "Chloë say please" really meant, "But I obeyed your rules."

And here I was, refusing anyway. We've worked so diligently to get her to say "please," teaching her that it will get her what she wants. But now that she's learned it, she also has to learn that it doesn't always work. What kind of a crappy lesson is that to teach a child? A useful and practical one, I suppose, but it seemed like awfully sad policy to me while sick and sleep-deprived on a Monday morning. I didn't carry her, but I held her hand as we walked down the stairs, and thanked her profusely when she pulled my work shoes out of the rack for me, and hugged her good-bye as tightly as I could while trying to avoid breathing on her. She skipped off to read one of her new books (from the Borders liquidation sale) with Eric, and I wished she had stopped to wave good-bye to me, as she does most days. But you don't always get what you want, even when you ask, and I hadn't.

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