“Swim!” Otter declared, pointing to the river.
Starskimmer shook her head, “No, Otter, we’re not going swimming.”
“Swim!” the little one insisted, toddling toward the bank.
Starskimmer groaned inwardly, took two strides, and scooped up her son so he could not go further.
Otter began kicking. “Swim swim swim!” he cried.
“Shhhh!” she warned him. **Send,** she added, reminding him that it was important to be quiet – that danger could be lurking nearby. He quieted down, but flailed his arms, arched his back and reached for the water.
Starskimmer was hard-pressed to keep hold of the boy. His strength and determination were fighting against her. Still, she kept hold of her youngest child and walked toward the tree-line. Starskimmer chided herself for having even thought of going near the river with Otter, knowing that the water was too cold for him right now. The boy always wanted to be in the water, and every time he saw it, it was a struggle to get him away. This time was no exception.
**No, Momma, no!** he protested. **Swim! Water! Swim! Water!** Otter’s voice rang loudly in her mind. Surely there were other elves within earshot of his open sending.
**Otter, we are not swimming tonight. The water is too cold,** she explained, keeping hold of him as she strode toward the Dentrees.
**Down!** he demanded, asking to be set down so he could walk.
“That’s not how you ask.”
“Down, please,” he asked quietly and sullenly.
“If I set you down, you will walk with me,” she stated.
His eyes widened, and then he nodded. “Down, please,” he repeated, pointing toward the ground.
She set him down, then reached for his hand so she could keep hold of him. He yanked it away with a “No!” but he stayed next to her, so she decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting. “Let’s go, Otter,” she said as calmly as her frayed nerves allowed her.
They began walking, slowly, toward the Dentrees.
“You know, you could just let him learn what it means to be in cold water,” Suddendusk called from behind them.
Starskimmer paused, as did Otter. The child turned, saw Suddendusk, and bounded toward him. **Sun-dusk!** he cried as he ran. When the child neared him, the elder scooped him up into his arms, then reached over his head and set Otter on his shoulders.
“You could!” he insisted in response to Starskimmer’s look. “It wouldn’t kill him to get cold and wet, and you might not have to fight him as much this winter.”
Starskimmer wondered. Maybe Suddendusk was right. Maybe she should let Otter take a swim in the frigid waters. But she had told Otter “No,” this night, and she wanted to be consistent. Otter needed to listen to his mother, not learn that another elf could help him get his way. She said as much to the ropemaker.
“Changing your mind this one time isn’t going to teach him that. It shows him that you can be reasoned with.”
Starskimmer wasn’t convinced. She knew how to raise children – she had already helped to raise two others. Still, she could recall times where she had been convinced to change her mind. Notch had sometimes taken it too far, but Beetle had always seemed to understand. Maybe Otter would, too. Then again, Suddendusk had his own child, and another on the way. His advice might be worth taking.
A dip in the cold water wouldn’t harm Otter as long as he was warmed up quickly afterward. And didn’t she and several others sometimes go for a swim in the river after the snows had started? What would the harm be? And then, maybe, Otter would understand.
“All right,” she conceded. “But I need to get some furs. Will you take him down to the riverbank? Don’t let him in the water until I get back, though.”
Suddendusk nodded. Otter squealed with glee. “Swim, Momma!” he announced.
“Yes, Otter, you get to swim.”
He clapped his hands together, then reached forward and squeezed Suddendusk’s head. “Tank you, Sun-dusk!”
Starskimmer watched as the Suddendusk took the now very-happy Otter back toward the riverbank. She hoped that this concession was the start of a bad pattern – even if Otter didn’t start to find others to support his cause, he could decide he liked the cold water. What then?
She tried not to think about it as she hurried to gather some furs.
Later that night, as Starskimmer and Suddendusk cuddled beneath the furs with Otter, skin-to-skin contact being most effective at warming a chilled body, she lock-sent to her friend, **I’m not so sure it worked – he got cold, and he was ready to leave, but he still asked to go swimming again tomorrow.**
Suddendusk chuckled, “He’s almost as stubborn as his mother!”
Starskimmer gave a pointed smile, “And he’s as passionate about swimming as his - maybe - father is about inventing.”
Their banter was interrupted as Otter squirmed in his sleep, reaching one hand for the warmth between his mother’s breasts and the other trying to push beneath her. Starskimmer reached across him and pulled Suddendusk closer, hoping Otter would soon be warm enough that she could move – having Suddendusk in the bedbowl with them was more than tempting, but she had to take care of Otter first.
**Shhh, my cubling,** she soothed mentally. **Dream of warm water and hot springs. We’ll go there tomorrow,** she promised, having come up with a solution to her concern about Otter swimming in the winter.
Otter sighed in his sleep and relaxed. Starskimmer smiled to herself, then looked up at Suddendusk with an inviting grin.