Water Play

April 2021

Cora has become a water enthusiast. She has always enjoyed splashing in puddles and she has always enjoyed getting squirted with the hose (until she realizes she’s all wet, and then she is horrified) but only recently has she attained new heights of independence when it comes to initiating water play.

She has become very independent lately. She climbs into her chair and her booster seat on her own. Before she does this, she pulls the chair the appropriate distance from the table and then, since it has arms, she ducks under the table and crawls up into the chair so no one will have to help her. She washes her hands by herself, a process that takes a painfully long time. She starts off by going into the dark bathroom, scooting the magazine rack out from the corner next to the sink and into the middle of the room. Then she moves her stool into this corner. Then she climbs up onto the stool and switches on the light. Then she climbs down and moves her stool over to the opposite corner, where she has best access to the sink. She can’t quite reach the taps from the front of the sink, so she jams herself into the corner on one side of the sink, stretches to turn on the tap, splashes some water around, fools around with the soap, and eventually stretches out again to turn the tap off. Then she has to climb down from her stool, walk around the other side of the sink, and dry off her hands.

But only in the past few weeks has she found that she is tall enough to reach the little water fountain in the fridge, which shoots water downward when you press on the back of the fridge.

There are cups in the cabinet across from the fridge, so that Annie will be able to get herself a cup of water when she wants one. Cora’s philosophy is, why not me too?

Cora enjoys getting cups of water. Sometimes she will fill up 3 or 4 cups of water and line them up on the floor, as a brightly-colored but lethal booby trap.

I was just finishing up repotting some tomato and basil plants. Annie was a rich and beautiful lady, jetting off to London from her small house in New York on her private airplane. She was going to visit the good parts of London (we just finished watching “Oliver” and she wanted to be clear about where in London she was going). Originally she told me that she worked at the local elementary school, until we had a chat about the feasibility of private airplanes on a teacher’s salary, and then she explained that she owned the school.

Cora was her little girl, and her little girl played along while they set up house, but then felt an irresistible urge to get some water. She got a cup of water, drank a little, and then dumped the rest in the sink. She went and got more water, and then dumped the whole cup into the sink. She went back to the fridge and got another cup of water.

I came into the room at this point and noticed water on the floor. I had been drawn in by the sound of splashing water and a happy voice saying “pour it out!”

“Cora, are you pouring water on the floor?” I asked worriedly. 

Cora got a big smile on her face. She was standing next to the fridge, on the wood floor. “Yes!” she said, and dumped the full cup of water out onto the floor without hesitation.

“Cora!” I cried. “You are going to have to clean up all that water. You go get a towel and clean it up right now!” 

Cora thought about it, and then turned back to the fridge with her cup. “I don’t want to,” she explained, getting more water in her cup. She walked over to the sink and dumped out the cup of water.


“Well then, you will not get any stories tonight,” I said.


“Nooo! I want stories!” Cora wailed.


“Then you clean up that water right now!”


“But I don’t want to,” said Cora, and collapsed on the floor, crying. Eventually she asked, “Mommy, will you help me?”


“I will help you get a towel, but you have to clean it up yourself,” I said.


“But I want you to help me!”


“Did I make that mess? Who made that mess?”


“I don’t know,” said Cora, weeping.  She stood up and tried to stagger away but slipped in the water and fell down, and started crying harder. “Hug, Mommy! Hug!”


I gave her a hug. We snuggled for a little while, as she continued to weep, partly because she had fallen and partly due to the injustice of the world in general. And partly to procrastinate.


Eventually I asked if she was ready to clean up the water.


“I don’t want to,” she sniffled. She stood up.


“I’ll get you a towel,” I said, walking away to get her a towel. Cora continued to cry. I heard a thump, and turned around to see her on the ground again, crying in the pool of water.

We had another cuddle and discussed why water is dangerous when it’s on the ground. We did a thought experiment involving all of Cora’s loved ones walking in the water and slipping and falling down, and we speculated on how each individual person might injure him or herself.

Cora took the towel halfheartedly and threw it on the ground near the water. She pushed it about a half-inch forward. “I don’t want to,” she said, crying.

“Well, you have to, or no stories,” I said.

Cora started to cry harder. “I want my pacifier,” she said.

Annie breezed in, recently returned from London. “What’s the matter, Cora? Would you like me to help?”

Cora could only continue crying.

“There’s a lot of water on the floor, Cora!” said Annie.

“We need more towels,” I said. I took out a towel, rejected it as too small, and took out another one. Annie was right beside me and took it from me, skipping back to her sister. “I got a really big towel, Cora!” she said.

Cora staggered to her feet and started to walk across the spilled water.

“No, no, stop, Cora! You’ll fall down!” I cried, but it was too late. She went down again. She wasn’t hurt, but this was adding insult to injury.

Annie was down on her hands and knees, pushing the towel through the spilled water. “Look, Cora! It’s almost all cleaned up!” said Annie cheerfully.

Cora managed to get back across the water and forced herself into my lap. She watched her sister, sniffling.

“Your sister is so nice, isn’t she?” I asked Cora. “You should help her, since it’s your mess. Look, there’s a spot of water over there. Why don’t you clean it up?

Annie circled back with her towel and the water was gone before Cora had a chance to respond. Cora continued to sit on my lap and cry. “Pacifier. Foxy pacifier,” she said between sobs. 

“There! All done!” Annie said cheerfully.

Cora stood up, sniffling a little. “I want a hug,” she said, walking up to her sister. “From my big sister.”

Annie gave her a big hug.

“All right, girls, it’s time for bed,” I said. 

“C’mon, Cora, let’s go upstairs,” Annie said in her most angelic big-sister tone. She took her sister’s hand and led her to the stairs. She let go of Cora’s hand again and leapt up a few stairs. Cora started to cry again.

“Huggy! Huggy!” she wept.

“You want a hug?” I asked.

“From my big sissy!” she said. Annie, who was enjoying her role of saintly, protective big sister, stopped on the stairs and held out her arms. Cora climbed up the stairs and got a mid-stair hug.

“Maybe Annie should pick out the stories tonight, since she’s been so helpful,” I suggested mildly.

“No, Cora can pick out whichever stories she wants,” said Annie. She took her little sister’s hand again, protectively, and they walked up the stairs together.