Sunday, May 4, 2014

Camel Children

You never truly know how long your children can hold their breath until you tell them they can have “just one swallow” of your drink.

In the pool, when you’re trying to convince them that going underwater isn’t going to kill them, anything over 5 seconds is a major accomplishment, to be praised incessantly and talked about for days afterward.  But when they get hold of your straw, they can go 3 or 4 minutes, easy.  When they finally release it, there’s a great gasping intake of air—their lungs are practically bursting with the effort.  Sometimes they look a little blue.  It takes them several whole breaths to recover so they can dive back in for another try at the world record.

In our house, we refer to small humans who do this as “camel children.”  For some reason, all three of our kids have this trait.  It can become disconcerting to take two sips out of your drink and then realize you need a refill.  But after a while you get used to it.  And you yell a lot.  It’s a bit like a bad comedy skit, actually.

“Hey, put that back!”
“No, wait, don’t actually spit it back into the ... no, never mind.  Drink all you want.  I’ll just get another cup.”

My dad always had a bit of germophobia when it came to my brother and I drinking out of his glass.  Not that we wanted to very often—he always drank tea, which we thought was disgusting.  Not as disgusting as coffee, of course, but close.  Oddly, tea (and water) is pretty much all I drink these days.  Although I will admit to spiking my tea with fruit juice.  Keeps it from getting boring and it’s better for me than sugar.  Probably.  Anyways, straight fruit juice is too sweet (and expensive) to drink with any regularity, and straight tea is too strong to drink without sweetener and too close to water to drink at mealtimes, for me.  I drink water all day long, but, at meals, I need something with a bit more character.  Tea is better than water for this purpose, but not by much.  So, combine the two, and voilà.

Anyway, I never understood the whole germophobia thing, at least not from a parental point of view.  When you first bring home that first child, all scrubbed and pink and perfect, you probably have visions of everyone washing their hands before they touch the baby, regular bleaching of all the nursery toys, and compulsive disinfection of all surfaces your baby might ever touch, or, worse yet, lick.  By the time you get to child three (and usually long before), you’re happy if you can just keep the Windex and Pine-Sol out of their mouths.  They drool and spit everywhere.  They get sick and bodily fluids spew out of nearly every orifice.  They pee on the floor when you’re trying to potty train them.  And they poop: regularly, spectacularly, at inconvenient times, in inconvenient places, and in every possible color and consistency you can imagine (and some you can’t).  My daughter pooped four times a day for months.  Wash your hands before you touch them?  Yeah, right.

So I’ve never quite been able to grasp how you can maintain any fear of germs as a parent.  Your entire life is germs when you’re a parent.  The most you can hope for is that, every once in a while, your partner is willing to deal with the germs every once in a while, long enough for you maybe grab a bite to eat between poops.  Drinking out of your glass?  Man, I got over that one a long time ago.

So it’s not any fear of germs I have when my children come for my beverages.  It’s mainly the inconvenience.  Having to get back up and refill my glass or cup constantly.  ‘Cause, you know: they can drink it, but refill it?  Suddenly they’re magically incapable of operating the cup.

“I can’t get the lid off!”
“Oh bring it back here and I’ll do it.  And don’t forget to put the ice in first this time, okay??  And don’t spill it!”

Yes, only your oh-so-clever children are capable of spilling an empty glass.  They’ve drained it completely dry, yet somehow they can still find at least a few last drops to dribble on the carpet.  It’s okay if they have to turn the glass completely upside-down in order to do this.  They’re industrious that way.

This is part of the reason I use a cup with a lid on it.  A Starbucks cup is one of the best, but most anything that is difficult to break, difficult to spill, and gigantic will do.  For many years, I would use super-size drink cups from McDonald’s.  You know how hard it is to convince McDonald’s to give you a super-size drink cup with water in it?  It completely blows their minds.  When you ask for water at McDonald’s, they want to give you a container of water roughly the size of a Dixie cup.  That’s all they’re willing to give you for free.  Of course, nowadays, they’ll sell you bottled water, because the brilliant marketing people at the bottled water companies have managed to convince everyone that their own tap water is so disgusting that they really need to pay to drink somebody else’s tap water.  But that’s another rant.  The point being, back in the days when I used to go to McDonald’s, I would spend quite a bit of time negotiating for a super-size cup with water in it.

“And I want a super-size drink with that.”
“What kind?”
[On the little computer screen they have at the drive-through in an attempt to subvert the apppropriate Joe Pesci meme, the following line appears:]
1 Bottled Water: $1.50.
“No, not a bottle of water, a cup.”
[The line on the screen changes:]
1 Courtesy Cup: $0.00.
“No, a super-size cup.  Like I said.”
“Sir, we can’t do that unless we charge you for a full drink.”
“Okay, that’s fine.”
“That’s fine.  Charge me for a drink.”
“So you want a super-size drink? what kind?”
“But, sir, you have to pay for the drink.”
“I don’t want the drink.  I want the cup.”
“But we have to charge you ...”
“Yes.  Charge me.  Charge me whatever you like.  I’ll pay an extra service fee if I have to.  Just give me the damn cup.”

Because that cup could last for months.  They were sturdy.  They were essentially unbreakable.  They could survive the dishwasher if you felt a compelling need for that, but, since I never put anything other than water in them, I didn’t really feel the need to wash them that often.  Sure, they had my germs in them, but they were my germs.  You don’t like it?  Don’t drink out of my cup.

Like that would ever stop my children.

But nowadays I use the Starbucks cup, or something similar.  They’re far more expensive than the McDonald’s cup, and not as sturdy, weirdly—oh, they’re impossible to crush, sure, but they’re brittle, and one good tumble onto concrete generally does them in.  But they can survive most falls, and they rarely spill.  They’re double-walled, which cuts down on the sweating and keeps the water cold longer.  And the straw has a little ring at the bottom which keeps little people from yanking it out and running away with it.  And it’s 24 ounces, which is only a bit more than half the size of the Mickey D’s cup, but still large enough that I don’t have to refill it that often.  Assuming, of course, my kids aren’t around ...

And I’m not the only one with this problem.  You know how they say you need to gets lots of water while breastfeedingThe Mother has recently taken to claiming that she’s going to keel over dead from dehydration, because her water cup is always empty.

It’s not like we don’t give them their own cups.  Ours are just more fun to drink out of, apparently.

Well, in the grand scheme of things, there are worse problems to have, definitely.  If the worst thing I could think of about my children were their beverage thieving habits, I’d be a pretty damned proud parent.  No doubt about that.  And, it can be sort of majestic, when you consider it ...  The camel child, taking on gallons of liquid at a time so that they can go for days without further drinking, which enables them to play videogames in marathon stretches that would kill a lesser mortal.  It’s like having your own nature channel.

But enough about my children.  I must take my leave now.  I’m out of water again.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! I laid in bed, nursing your daughter, chuckling. Thanks for putting a funny spin on an issue that can be rather annoying.