The Royal Family were wrapping up the Spring Break. The boys had been on vacation from The Academy all week. Shark Boy had been learning to slide down mountains on magic planks (or at least he had been learning to do it even better than he already could), while the Lightning Kid had been working on his reading and writing, playing dress up and other games.
Unfortunately, Shark Boy's adventure exposed him to badly behaved older children and sugary nectar and other experiences inappropriate for a seven-year-old, and he spent his nights lying awake, unable to sleep, and keeping his parents awake too. They were relieved when the week was over, and thought the weekend would be the beginning of a normal sleep schedule.
Then the Lightning Kid started vomiting. If vomiting was a sport, the Lightning Kid would have been awarded a championship for speed, distance, volume and endurance. The King and Queen exhausted themselves trying to comfort the little prince, but every time they tried to move him back to bed, another round started. Finally, the Queen took him to see midnight healers, who gave him medicine to make it stop.
While the Queen and Lightning Kid were out of the castle, the King tried to get some sleep; Shark Boy had finally drifted off in the guest bed. The King slept poorly: he had a dream that started off pleasantly - he and the princes were playing on a frozen lake and having fun.
|Photo: Joe Mastroianni/Public Domain|
He failed. Both he and the Lightning Kid were sinking, and even as he struggled to push his son to the surface, the cold paralyzed his muscles and he could do nothing but sink.
He awoke with a gasp, and felt relief that it had been nothing but a dream, though of course, the feelings and images would stay with him for the rest of the day.
After some sleep, and a pleasant pancake breakfast, it was clear the Lightning Kid was feeling much better, although a bit tired from the previous night's ordeal. Before the spring vacation, his teacher at the Academy had sent the Lightning Kid home with a book. The book culminated in the words:
polite and helpful
The Queen (and King, but mostly the Queen) had spent a lot of time that week getting the Lightning Kid to learn to say those words and recognizing their letters on the page. This particular morning, the Lightning Kid seem to get stuck on the word 'smart'. It was uncanny: his memory seemed to hit some kind of wall when it came to recalling this one word, even though he was perfectly capable of saying it in isolation. He was somehow just stuck at that point in the phrase, and the sleep-deprived King and Queen did not have all of their patience at their disposal, nor did they find the creative means to work around the obstacle.
Later that day the King paid a visit to his mother and both he and the Lightning Kid had a nap. Just before dinner, the King wrote out the phrase from the book in a large script, and practised a little more with the prince. Though the fifth word still was a stumbling block they were able to work past it, and successfully read the page.
On the way home, the King heard a song he recognized; it was performed by one of Shark Boy's favourite troubadours. The chorus went:
And if you feel you're sinking, I will jump right over
Into cold, cold water for you
And although time may take us into different places
I will still be patient with you
And I hope you know
I won't let go
Of course, the King had always known he would gladly make a physical sacrifice for the welfare of his sons. Sometimes being patient, and enduring could be just as uncomfortable as falling into a frozen lake. That must be what it takes to raise a prince.