“Three more one-mores?”
This was the response my 2-and-not-yet-a-half-year-old daughter gave to the order “One more book” at bedtime a few months ago. In our house, bedtime has become something of a psychological battleground, pitting parental fatigue and orneriness against obviously superior forces—the wily manipulation, strategic screaming, and tactical use of tears by a toddler. Call it The Art of War by Sun Tzu, as translated by Dr. Seuss. To have a child at that age respond so cannily to what you perceive to be a nonnegotiable offer—the subtext being, You know and I know, Dad, that there’s no way you’re getting out of this room without a total meltdown if I don’t get at least two more books read to me—well, the audacity is breathtaking. How do you defend against that? Laughter helps. Knowing that one of the arts of war is the shrewd deployment of carrots and sticks helps more.
One of my typical flanking moves is to offer up something better in the near future if she will agree to my demands now. I believe Sun Tzu calls this the Wimpy Defense—as in, “I’ll gladly take you to the park tomorrow if you get in bed tonight.” Sometimes this actually works. Most of the time she sees through my brilliant stratagem and simply says “Yeah!” enthusiastically. I smile and shift in the chair and start to say “OK, then let’s get into be—” when she quickly interrupts. “One more book,” she’ll whisper intensely, raising a single, conspiratorial index finger close to her nose. “One more book!” That’s usually when I buckle, mentally leaving the field with my troops to fight another day. And we read one more book.
When the Wimpy Defense works, it’s usually because I’ve promised to take her someplace fun. The Land of Make Believe playground at Lunken Airport Playfield is a particular favorite because it’s got tube slides. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is another winner; if we’re not exploring the caves at the Museum of Natural History & Science, we’re getting soaked playing with the gizmos at the water table in the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. And of course, there’s always the easy bribe of an ice cream cone at Graeter’s or Aglamesis. If you are a parent or grandparent, or even just a close family friend dragooned into entertaining someone’s kid, I wholeheartedly recommend the kids activities package we’ve compiled in this issue. It’s not subtitled “The A-to-Z Guide to Ridiculously Fun, Secretly Educational, All-Out Spectacular Things to Do With Your Kids” for nothing.
The latest blip on Nola’s fun-o-meter involves a book we got at the library: Captain Abdul’s Little Treasure. The book is long and comes with a CD so you can listen and follow along if you want. We’ve been reading and/or listening to it daily (and nightly) for about three weeks now, and despite the fact that my wife and I are reaching the limits of our endurance, Captain Abdul is helping us win the battle at bedtime. As Nola informed me the other day after a supervised bouncing session on our bed, “I’m really into pirates right now.”
That you are, matey. If anyone knows of a pirate ship marauding on the Ohio, I’m all ears.
Originally published in the April 2009 issue.