On Losing a Battle and a War with a 5 Year Old

by Brendan Strong

She’s bawling in bed
(Because I told her
she’d have to sleep in the shed)

I climb the stairs
(To calm her for sleep,
feeling more guilt than I can bear).

“So why do kids go
to bed early, when adults
stay up until tomorrow?”

“Well” I reply, “you
need lots of sleep so you have
lots of energy for school

and to play with your friends.
That’s what will make you happy.
That’s what we want in the end”

“You want me to be happy?”
She’s incredulous. I say “Yes”.
“Then: if I say I want ice cream

why don’t you give me ice cream
there and then?!” “There’s other kinds of
happiness than just getting ice cream”

“I won’t ever be happy!
How can you make me happy when
you don’t even know what happiness means?!”

“But if we gave you ice cream
whenever you wanted, what if you got
sick: then you’d be sad, you see?”

“You don’t understand me –
you’re not listening to me – or –
you don’t even understand ice cream:

It’s not about being sick
or fine, ice cream is fun, like if
you’re sad you can give it a lick!”

“But sometimes”, I say “we’ll be
happier if we wait and work for our ice cream.”
“Please, go away and leave me to sleep.”

Gingerly I step back down
the stairs, thinking she’s right. Sometimes
we forget to be happy right now.