Since we returned from Alabama, Eli has been in rare form. He’s been testing boundaries, seeing if we really mean it when we say things like, “stop kicking the wall,” and “if you keep screeching like that I swear my head is going to pop off and twirl around spewing blood from its eyes.” A lot of this is attention deficit disorder: he had a lot of fan attention when he was in Arkansas.

When we got home on Sunday, Misty & I had a lot of around-the-house chores to do. At one point we were in our office, both of us working on our computers. Eli tottered into the room, brandishing his cup. “I drinking water.” It was filled to the brim.

Misty and I looked at each other. If you had been watching the movie version of this, you would have seen the room behind us expand away from us in that stereotypical dolly zoom horror-film effect. “Where did you get that water?” Misty asked Eli.

“From the refrigerator!”

“I bet you left a trail of water behind you,” Misty said. She headed to the kitchen to wipe up behind Eli. Then I heard her yell.

Let us back up and set the stage some more. We keep a big tub of filtered water in the refrigerator. It has a tap on the front. You pull the tap lever towards you and water pours out. You pull the tap lever from vertical to horizontal and water keeps pouring out.

I believe I just gave away the punchline. Yes, Eli had pulled the tap lever. Water had filled the refrigerator and spilled onto the floor.

We’d just spent a stressful week back in Arkansas. We were tired from the six-hour drive. This is our flimsy excuse for our anger. We didn’t yell! That’s a plus on our side! Misty made Eli help mop up water, but that wasn’t going well. To compound matters, Eli had a dirty diaper. Tempers were flaring, but because we are nice and polite, they were flaring inside, where surely they would do no damage!

I finally broke down and picked up Eli to take him to his room. Eli could tell he was in trouble. It was time to bring out the big guns. “Cute shirt, Daddy,” he said. “Cuuuuute shirt.” I was wearing a shirt from Rush’s Test for Echo tour. “Cute” isn’t one of the words I’d use to describe this ten-year-old t-shirt.

When we were done, I had Eli sit down in the kitchen and watch us clean up. “Don’t move until I tell you.” We then ignored him. “Daddy!” he said, and “Mommy!” Then he would cry because we were ignoring him to clean up his mess. Mopping up took us some fifteen minutes. The whole time Eli was whining and crying. The punishment was overkill for what was, in the cold light of next morning, obviously an accident. Did I mention we were tired? We were! Very tired!

Eli’s misbehavior continued throughout bathtime. I’ve never been more glad to see him in bed as I was that night. And his misbehavior continued the next day!

We’ve been torn. We don’t want to crush Eli’s nascent spirit, but we have to give him limits and boundaries. But he cries! And his lower lip pooches out! It is very sad and I went to work the next day with guilt bending my back and bowing my spine.

But I think our discipline campaign is succeeding. Yesterday his friends Delaney and Claire were visiting. They were jumping on the bed, an activity that is worse than screeching but better than sticking forks in sockets. Misty sent Eli to his couch as punishment. She went through our usual after-couch routine:

“Do you know why you’re on your couch?”


“Why are you on your couch?”


“Why did mom send you to your couch? What did you do?”

“Mom and dad say no jumping onna bed.”

“You can get up now.”

He walked into the living room and saw Delaney. “Delaney!” he shrieked. “Let’s go jumpin’ onna bed!”