Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Allure of Other People's Water

This morning I took my kids to the playground.  We hadn't been there a handful of minutes before a familiar curly-headed girl set to one of her favorite play date activities - searching out, covertly confiscating, and then contributing her backwash to other people's water.  I'm under the impression that this is a phenomenon not exclusive to my own toddlers.  It has been suggested by many a play date mother that this is normal behavior for toddlers the world over.  But it seems to be a rampant contagion with mine.  When one outgrows toddler-hood, s/he ceremoniously passes the other-people's-water-fetish on to the next sibling in line for toddler-hood.  

Why is this????  What is the allure of other people's water?  What am I doing wrong?

It's not like I left the 2-liter water cooler at home.  I didn't.  I intentionally wrestled it into the sink full of breakfast dishes to fill it up before we left the house.  I even remembered to put it into the car and then to take it out of the car when we got to the park.  I even brought cups.  These are all monumental feats seeing as that I also had five well-fed, well-hydrated children to get in the car (not to mention my own travel mug of steaming hot coffee decaf.)  

It's not like I deprive my children of water on a regular basis, or ever.  We have a sink (four in the house, to be exact) that when you turn the faucet, water comes out and is theirs for the taking.  I'm not stingy with the drinking water.  I don't even force the kids to turn their hand into a shallow dish for slurping.  I pay money for sink-side Dixie cups so that there is always a clean waxy paper cup nearby.  I'm really quite accommodating.  

It's not like our water is ever going to run out either.  We live on Lake Erie, for crying out loud.  No one is asking anybody to slog out to the well and expend energy manipulating a pulley or hauling buckets.  Nor do we have to ration our water lest the cistern run dry.  Just a few miles from home is one of the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet.  The entire planet.  And the city cleans it and sends it to our house for a nominal fee.  

"These lovely shores! how lone and still / A hundred years ago......A hundred years are past and gone / And all the rocky coast
Is turreted with shining towns / An empire's noble boast..."
from the poem "Lake Erie" by Ephraim Peabody
It's not like I don't have age appropriate drink-ware for my children.  I do.  We have plastic cups with handles.  And plastic cups without handles. And the aforementioned Dixie cups.  For when we leave the house, we have cups with straws and cups with lids, and sippy cups with valves,  and we have water bottles that you squeeze, water bottles with flip-tops, and water bottles that are actually soup thermoses (but whatever...)  If you're in my family and you're interested in having a drink of water, I think we can find the proper receptacle for you.

not our actual water bottles.  we're not that hip.

Why then, are toddlers drawn to other people's water bottles and sippy cups and straws and even the public drinking fountain.  I BROUGHT WATER FOR YOU!  I, WHO AM YOUR MOTHER AND WILL NOT LET YOU GO THIRSTY!  AND IT'S FREE!  AND I LOVE YOU!  AND I AM NOT A STRANGER WITH A POTENTIALLY FATAL, DEFINITELY CONTAGIOUS DISEASE! PLEASE, LET ME SERVE YOU WATER!

None of this seems to matter.  When my children reach a certain age, they are inexplicably and uncontrollably drawn to all the other water at the park.  They even manage to find the water bottles that are hidden in the bottoms of strollers or tucked away in diaper bags.   At best, they casually dismiss the water I offer them.  At worst, they blatantly turn up their noses at it.  They know they can find the "universal solvent" elsewhere.  Let me tell you, it's humbling to be passed over as the primary water-provider for a germ-infested bottle stashed in an unattended purse or a sullied sippy cup half buried under a bush.

A friend who was with us (with her own well-hydrated children) at the park this morning (some of you may know her as Mama H :)  I'm name dropping.  Sorry, Heather!  You're cool with it, right? ;) ) was kind enough to listen to my pre-blog-post whining about the details of the ever-present H2O drama.  She suggested that I hook each of my kids up with one of those Camelbacs.  You know, that fabri-canteen-like thing that you wear as a backpack and it has a straw that reaches around to your mouth (kind of like a snorkel in reverse, I guess.)  

I don't know.  Who's to say that water you carry on your back like a beast of burden wouldn't eradicate the fascination with other people's water?  Well, I haven't discounted the idea entirely, but my primary reason for delaying the test run is... I don't want to have to take my kids to other people's toilets.

** Hey, P.S.  How about going to my new Facebook page and "liking" Ordinary Lovely.  You'll get direct links to posts and any other fun stuff I decide to surprise you with there!  Thanks! **


  1. Better than the toddler next door who loves to eat the dirt in my yard. When she comes over, she gobbles it down by the fistful hungrily. She doesn't eat the dirt in her own yard.

    In daycares and schools, my kids were made to fear germs. So strange water bottles aren't an issue. But they will stare hungrily at other children's snacks. I just fed you!

    Those canteens should be sold with strap on portable urinals.

    1. I like the portable urinal idea! Although, that's kind of like what a diaper is...
      My kids also eat other people's food. I'm always so embarrassed b/c 1) it's rude and 2) it really does seem like I never feed them. Why???

  2. I've also seen many babies partake of bottles of breast milk from other families at Music with Mar classes. Awkward.

  3. This is so funny! I love it! I also have an idea.
    This is what we should do from now on. Next time we meet up, let's immediately switch water bottles. This way, when they go to drink out of "someone else's water bottle", guess what?? They're not drinking out of someone else's water bottle, because - voila! - someone's else's water bottle IS THEIR WATER BOTTLE!!!!
    It's like the Decoy Plate. Has Janelle ever told you about it? One day, her kids kept coming after her food over and over while we were there, and I said "What you need is a fake plate." So we made a plate of food and put it near her. It looked just like her food, but it WASN'T HER FOOD. Her kids believed it was her food and they ate it! And all the while, she had her OWN real plate of food right near the decoy plate and they never even noticed.
    So, switch water bottles from now on! We parents must outsmart these clever little children. AND WE WILL. lol

    1. Oh man - the "decoy plate" is hilarious!

    2. Heather, you nailed it. We will beat them at their own game :)
      Russ and I have used the decoy plate technique before - except I'm ashamed to admit that the decoy location was the floor - for some reason, a few of our kids would find the dinner on the table unacceptable, but their dinner on the floor was irresistible...

    3. Oh my goodness, I need to try this!!!

    4. Yes! Decoy water! It will work like a charm!! The collective minds of moms = genius.

    5. OH MY GOSH THE FLOOOOR!!! I'm immediately employing that technique here. Not even kidding. MARY you MUST try the decoy plate! It actually works and the mom GETS TO EAT HER OWN FOOD!! :)

    6. oh my gosh! brilliant--all of it!

    7. Why have I not known about this! It.Is.Brilliant.

  4. ha - fun post! So true. I'm adding you on FB so I won't miss anything :-)

  5. You ladies are crackin' me up. The decoy idea is priceless and I'm definitely gonna try it out on my crew. My 5yo is especially fond of drinking anything he sees me with, even if there are 14 other half-full cups sitting on the counter.


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