My nephew Max is bright, friendly, talkative, imaginative, occasionally bossy and endlessly energetic - which is to say that he is 6 years old. Actually, he strikes me as more precocious than other children his age, but oddly, that only seems to highlight his very 6-year-oldness.
We were aware of all these qualities - particularly the energy part - when we decided to invite Max to our home for a sleepover. But we had a plan that seemed foolproof: Wear him out before he wore us out.
Those of you who are experienced parents already know what happened: The plan failed. Utterly.
I began to suspect the jig was up about 30 seconds after we picked Max up in Topeka. He immediately launched into a detailed exposition of the adventures of Captain Underpants - there really is such a character, it turns out - complete with the joyful cry, "Stop in the name of underwear!"
After that, Max began to pretend like he was a malfunctioning robot. I was in the front seat, trying to drive, but that didn't exempt me from the game.
"Malfunction! Malfunction! Malfunction!" he yelled.
"What's the malfunction?" I asked.
"I'm out of batteries!"
"Ah. Well, if you're really out of batteries, you would shut down completely - you wouldn't be able to tell everybody that you don't have batteries until they found you."
Incredibly, this worked. Max slumped forward in his seat and went silent. For about 90 seconds.
Then, a whisper from the back seat. "Uncle Joel, you're supposed to FIX me!"
We hadn't even made it back to Lawrence yet.
I took him to the pool. This was the linchpin of the "wear him out" plan. I've never seen anybody spend an afternoon at the pool and come away without needing a nap. Certainly, I needed one after about an hour.
Max, however, has superhuman strength.
There was never a nap. Instead there were two movies, pizza, a board game, a trip for ice cream and, finally, a walk to South Park in the hopes we could tire him out just a little bit so we could go to bed.
It worked. Kind of. He slept, at least. I think.
We took Max home to Abilene the next day; I was the one who was tuckered out, while he was rarin' for more action. I now have a new level of awe and respect for parents everywhere; I barely lasted a day - how do you people muster the strength to keep doing it for years?
But it was worth it. Max told me he had fun. And truth is, we did, too. We'll have him back for another visit sometime.
First, though, I'll need a nap.