Then one day the well ran dry. There was nothing left to pull up and the King went thirsty. He went through with his fatherly duties, but couldn’t remember why. He felt like he had sung every lullaby, played every game, cajoled Shark Boy into behaving, cleaned food off the Lightning Kid’s face a thousand times or more, and his only reward would be yelling, crying or even screaming. He hadn’t always felt like he knew what he was doing as a father, but suddenly the work seemed not just challenging and demanding but rather like pointless drudgery. Even when exhausted, he’d been able to find some spark within himself to do whatever was needed by his family at any given moment, at least, until that day.
He tried talking to the Queen. She was sympathetic, and equally tired. She spoke of the times that she had lost patience with the experience of parenthood. The King felt stupid; every parent experienced fatigue and all found the behaviour of their children taxing at times. He read his own words back to himself in his mind, and surmised that they sounded like pointless whining. He worried that if he tried to discuss it further with the Queen, if he tried to elaborate how empty he felt, she would worry about him, and fear that she’d be caring for the children without his full support.
Despairing, he left the castle for a walk in the woods. Once he was in deep enough and he thought no-one would hear him, he cried out:
“Can one simply lose the magic that is within? The magic that makes us do what is necessary as parents... can it simply disappear?!?!”
“Yes...” came the answer from the tree canopy above. He looked up and saw a red-haired pixie. “And it doesn’t last. Honest. Your heart won’t let it.” The King thanked the pixie, and returned to the castle, determined to at least try and get one good night’s rest. When he woke up the next morning, he was able to pull a quarter-bucket’s worth from the well. The day was still difficult, but he found himself smiling more at the antics of the children, and there were more hugs and less crying and screaming. He also managed to take enough time for himself to get some exercise; more than the usual amount in fact. The day after, the bucket came back full, and the King drank deeply, refreshing his soul. He’d known that he’d have to be patient with his children, but know he knew that he had to be patient with himself.