My head jostled off the pillow and smashed onto head-board. I glanced at the clock: 4:46am. Our daughter lie in bed next to me, cooking at a crispy 105˚, moaning and sobbing with fever. I sat up in bed, trying vainly to cling to the meager fucking 20 minutes of total sleep I had accumulated throughout the total fuck-wash of a night.
“Wha…I got the kid’s ibuprofen. The liquid shit. The stuff we always get.”
“YOU GOT BERRY FLAVOR!” my wife screamed again from the bathroom. “You are fucking KIDDING me, Rick!”
“Why does this matter? She doesn’t care wha-“
My wife was instantly in my face bedside, like she fucking teleported. Her hair wild, her eyes wide, bulging, and bloodshot. She was working on less sleep than me I gathered. “She…only…takes…bubblegum… Rick.”
“What? No. I’ve seen her drink the grape stuff too. She’ll take whatever…just give it.”
We had run out of the bubble gum shit earlier in the evening and I had been forced to make a Rite-Aid trip. We were on our 3rd straight day with a sick kid who slept in intervals of 15 minutes and was not capable of giving a shit that mommy and daddy required a little more sleep than that to maintain any sense of mental health or competent dialogue.
She hands me the bottle and the little measuring cup, her hand trembling with teetering madness. “Okay, let’s see your little magic trick, Rick,” she says in that Linda-Blair-Exorcist voice. I turn on the bed-side table light and measure it out. I nudge our 4yr old to sit up and can feel the fever rising off her body like the Sahara. “Here, honey…take this real quick okay?” I nudge the cup up to her mouth as my wife stands behind, arms folded, a look of rage boring into the back of my skull (you can totally feel that shit). Our daughter gets a whiff of the wonderful Berry flavoring and her lips suddenly close tight like a vice. Shit.
“Honey, just take it. It’s Berry. It tastes fine.”
“No…bubblegum.” she mumbles through clenched teeth.
The wife grumbles…something about shoving a bottle of Berry-something up my ass…
“Okay, honey…just take this please. You’re fever is really high….and you’re mother may assault me if you don’t take this.”
“Seriously, she’ll just whack daddy over the head with the lamp while he’s sleeping…then no more piggy back rides for you.”
“No, this is like…affecting me and mommy’s marriage. Drink the freaking Berry shit.”
“NO! Bubblegum! Bubblegum!”
“Goddammit, RICK!” comes the wife’s commentary.
I stay focused on the kid. “Honey, you don’t want mommy to be mad at daddy, right?” She looks at me and rolls her little 4yr-old eyes to show she could give two fucking shits. She’s not a marriage counselor, she just wants her fucking bubblegum flavor. I tilt the cup onto her lips, perhaps hoping the feeling of fluid on them would cause them to part. This is how stupid your brain is when you haven’t had REM sleep since like fucking Thursday. It pours down her face and onto the bed.
“Fuck…sake! I’m going to fucking Wegmans! I cannot believe this shit!” the wife screams as she storms down the stairs in her pajamas and a winter coat. One slipper.
I fall back in bed. Now my head is pounding. I grab the bottle and take a swig myself-might as well get some fucking use out of it. I nearly gag and blow it out my nose.
“Holy shit, this does taste awful.” I look to my daughter who is nodding in agreement through her feverish fog.
Yeah, Bubblegum. Who’s bright fucking idea was it to even give small children the OPTION of more than one flavor? Obviously someone with no goddamn kids. The more options you give a kid, the more choice they have, the more power they get.
See, all little kids want power of course-they spend the first quarter of their lives under everyone’s thumb. They are desperate for even the smallest bit of control over their existence. A chance to call the shots on something. But that doesn’t mean you give it to them. That’s like giving a bottle of Jack to an alcoholic and saying “Now, use this wisely. Don’t cause any trouble.” We don’t give them power, we don’t give them much choice, we don’t present them with many options because they are kids and kids are, by nature, STUPID, SELF-DESTRUCTIVE, MEGALOMANIACS. Give a kid a choice between walking down the stairs or sliding down the stairs on a cookie tray and they will smash their heads into the drywall every time (It’s true, I conducted a study). So you don’t give them that option.
One flavor. That’s all they get. That’s all they need. If it was made that simple my daughter would have slugged down the Berry shit, my wife wouldn’t have had to drive to a pharmacy in the middle of the night, and I wouldn’t have overslept my alarm by an hour the next morning, jamming to “Today’s hottest hits on Kiss 107″ in my Children’s-Motrin-induced sleep-state. Fuck, I was dancing to “Call Me Maybe” while riding a berry-flavored unicorn.
That shit ain’t healthy.
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