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The Reluctant House Dad: Should Teachers Force Our Kids To Drink Water In This Heatwave?

14/08/2014 16:52 | Updated 22 May 2015

The Reluctant House Dad: Should teachers force our kids to drink water in this heatwave?

In our house, we're calling it Watergate 2: The Saga of the Classroom Drinking Policy. None of us really know the truth of the matter, whether it was a cover-up or miscommunication.

But the fact is, Watergate 2 will go down in our family as the day I become the type of parent I loathe more than any other: a complainer.

And it might have all been avoided if my eight-year-old son wasn't so shy. Watergate 2 happened on one of the hottest days of the year.

Outside, the temperature had hit 30C. Inside the Year 3 classroom it was way beyond that, hotter and stickier than an Equatorial jungle.

At school pick-up, my son complained he had a banging headache and a raging thirst.

"Why didn't you use your water bottle?" I asked him.

"We're not allowed. The new teacher says we can only have a drink at playtime."

This couldn't possibly be true, could it? Children dehydrating in stifling classrooms as the Met Office announces a Level Three Heatwave?

Surely not. I asked him again, and he swore blind he was telling the truth. Now, he is not a boy prone to hyperbole or fabrication.

I know all parents say that about their children, but my boy seems to have some kind of Truth Button installed in him. I don't think I've ever heard him say, 'It wasn't me', when a glass has been smashed or an ornament broken. He's like Spartacus.

So when he told me about Watergate 2, I knew I had to take it seriously. The following morning, I walked him to school and asked him again, half a dozen times, whether he could be mistaken. I also knew he would be mortified if I complained about it because, for him, being centre of attention turns him inside-out with shyness. But he was insistent.

When I arrived at school, the teacher wasn't there, so I spoke to the teaching assistant. She said all the children were allowed a drink whenever they liked, within reason, explaining that it was disruptive if they kept getting up to go outside to the water fountain.

Then I spoke to the Head about the school's policy. Yep, it was policy to allow the children to have water bottles in the classroom to sip whenever they liked, especially on days like we've had this week.

As we waited for the teacher to arrive, I reported this to my son. But he was still insistent: she wouldn't allow children a drink during lessons.

When the teacher arrived, I asked her about the practice. And again, she denied my son's version – and told him so. The plot thickened.

By now, my achingly shy son was dissolved in a heap on the carpet. This was his worst nightmare: his belligerent dad kicking off with his teacher – and all on account of something he'd said.

But then the teacher said something which made me realise my son was both telling the truth and not telling the truth!

"He can have a drink whenever he likes. He only has to ask," she said.

And there's the rub: he only had to ask. He would never ask. He would rather jump out of a window than put his hand up and ask for something. He would rather bury his head in a flower pot than wave his arms around saying: "Look at me everybody, I'd like a drink, woo-hoo!"

In short, he's so shy he'd pretty much rather die of thirst than draw attention to himself.

And that's the point: is it a teacher's or teaching assistant's job to insist that all children have a drink at regular intervals because some kids are too shy to ask? Or should children be expected to take responsibility for their own rehydration, no matter how backwards they are at coming forward?

The good news is that, the next day at school pick-up, I asked my son if he was thirsty.

"No," he replied. "We've been drinking all day. And I need the toilet."

Perhaps being a complaining parent gets results after all.

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