As a precaution against malaria, we have been taking mefloquine, a prescription prophylactic, once a week on Sunday evenings. Caleb takes a quarter tablet, a very doable size for a five year old boy, and does quite well with it, too. Until this weekend.
We were out of town this weekend, so I took the mefloquine with us. I actually forgot to give Caleb his pill Sunday evening, so I had to give it to him Monday morning. When I gave Caleb the pill, I didn’t have a cup readily available, so I just gave him a water bottle that was handy to take his pill with. Big mistake. While Caleb is fully capable of drinking out of a water bottle, he has a kind of funny way of doing it and has a tendency to backwash back into the bottle. Well, this happened while he was trying to take his pill and it backwashed right into the bottle.
I had only brought one pill with us for him to take, so I didn’t have another one to give him. We thought that he could just drink the pill out of the bottle, but after drinking a good bit of the water he still hadn’t gotten down what was now a rapidly disintegrating pill. Then the water started turning bitter due to the pill dissolving, and he didn’t want to drink it anymore. Unfortunately, by this point we were committed to having him drink what was left.
We tried everything: coaxing, reasoning, bargaining, begging. Finally, we told him that he had to drink the rest of what was in the bottle before he could get anything else. We marched down to breakfast with the bottle in hand. Caleb sat in front of his bottle of bitter, medicinal water while the rest of us ate breakfast.
When we got into the vehicle to head home, one of the eMi interns traveling with us suggested to try adding some drink power, the kind you add to a bottle of water to make it into something like Crystal Light or Gatorade. Caleb liked the idea, but didn’t want to do it right away. When he was finally ready, he chose an orange flavor. I added what I thought would be an adequate amount to the bottle. Caleb took a sip or two and wouldn’t drink anymore.
A little bit later, I thought it might help make the water more palatable if I added some sugar to the water. Caleb seemed keen on the idea as well, so we stopped at a supermarket in the largest town we traveled through on the way home. But when I got the sugar added to the water, he wasn’t interested in trying it. At one point on the trip home, he decided he was hungry enough to try the water with the added sugar. He took a couple of sips, and wouldn’t drink anymore.
The entire way home, I maintained that he had to drink the water before he got anything else. And the entire way home, Caleb wouldn’t budge. He would say that he was hungry, and I would tell him that all he had to do was finish the water, but he wouldn’t.
When we got home, we upped the stakes, saying that he couldn’t do anything like go over to Grandma Maggie’s or play until he finished the water. He sat at our dining room table with the water bottle sitting in front of him and still wouldn’t drink it. I added more sugar to try to make it more palatable. We tried having him take it off a spoon (the way I remember taking medicine as a child before they had those nice dispensers). That lasted two spoonfuls.
Finally, I was at my wits end. By this point, it wasn’t so much about making him take the medicine as it was standing our ground as parents. I was afraid that if we gave in and let him abandon drinking the rest of the water, we would lose a major parenting battle.
So, I did what any good parent would do: I talked to a grandmother. Since I can’t just call up my own mother, I went over to talk to our wonderful neighbor, Grandma Maggie. Her thought was that we were all tired, and by this point the battle wasn’t worth fighting. We have been on Mefloquine since before we arrived, and the chances of him getting malaria are not terribly great. She said we should let Caleb know that we would be sad for him if he got malaria because he didn’t take his medicine, but that it was his choice. So that’s what we did.
Caleb may have won this battle of the wills. But we didn’t completely lose, since a grandmother’s ruling always overrules a mother’s. Right?
“If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.” Deuteronomy 21:18-19