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A luxury hotel in southern Ontario recently made a huge mistake.

It encouraged us -- my wife, myself, our nearly-3-year-old -- to come.

The lure was a weekend of kids-related activities and a "family" rate we convinced ourselves we could afford. (We'll realize our folly when the bill arrives).

Management apparently concluded that filled rooms on a slow weekend, even if filled by 35-pounders with 150-pound lung capacities, is better than an empty one.


The only way luring us made corporate sense was as a stress test for new hires; a means of toughening brightly polished hotel management school graduates.

Our daughter provided numerous assaults on employee poise: licking the glass panes on the lobby door; picking pistachio nut shells out of the ash tray near the elevator; sprinting to the lobby piano to knock out an atonal (and off-season) version of "Jingle Bells."

All of which gave the staff ample opportunity to practice the tight smiles and clenched fists of muted rage. Given the level of on-the-job training we provided, the hotel should've comped us for the weekend.

Our fellow guests were equally blessed.

A vivid memory involved the childless couple at check-in, carrying Armani luggage and wearing the equivalent of a month's wages. One recalls the look of horror that crossed their faces as our daughter, having broken free near the elevator, led Dad on a two-lap chase around the lobby in a wet bathing suit.

Each frantic step shattered their idyllic vision of a romantic getaway weekend. Yours truly, eying the fine china displayed in the lobby, merely prayed that the offspring wouldn't miscalculate her speed around the far turn.

Don't get me wrong. She's a good girl whose role models are Snow White and Cinderella. She's also not quite 3, which means frequent moments of, uh, unbridled enthusiasm.

Having been kid-less most of my adult life, I understand the limited patience many adults have with small children. Especially at luxury hotel prices. These and other guests-without-kids assumed that the usual room rate of $190 Canadian (that's $23.95 American) meant anyone not safely beyond pubescence would be barred at the door. It was their misfortune to arrive during "family" week -- a hard-earned reminder that one should check discount packages before planning a romantic getaway.

And one must confess to moments of subversive glee. Like when a mature couple rolled their eyes in dismay while waiting for our daughter to push the button on the elevator. Or the bejeweled folks who warily eyed our tyke near the reservation desk of the hotel's four-star restaurant (Unofficial slogan: No Entree Less Than $20).

We eventually accepted a generous bribe and ate in the lounge.

Which brings us to parental self-delusion. Apparently afflicted with a terminal case of cabin fever, we were convinced the weekend would grant us respite from the domestic grind. Perhaps even a fleeting moment of romance.

In truth, it was soon apparent what we'd purchased -- 48 hours in a confined space with a small, hyperactive human.

Beyond that, a winter's confinement had rendered us soft in the brain. We'd forgotten Rule 1 of Traveldom: The thrill of unfamiliar surroundings precludes toddler sleep.

Miss High Beams joined her zombie-like parents sometime after midnight on the "big" bed, which was about an acre shy of being big enough.

It was like sharing space with a nest of lobsters. The night was a gruesome experiment in sleep deprivation, with any consecutive moments of slumber broken by a small fist in the face or a tiny foot implanted in a tender body part.

My wife assured herself of a lifetime supply of Valentine's Day roses when, sometime after 3 a.m., she voluntarily relocated between our daughter and myself.

However, there's no one I pitied more than the folks in adjacent rooms.

On the second night, our light sleeper awoke with a howl. It was a plaintive wail that steadily rose to the pitch of an air raid siren, responded to in kind by every dog within a five-mile radius.

Child-rearing experts caution against offering bribes for good behavior. That's because none of them ever had kids.

In return for silence, we offered her a lifetime supply of Starbursts and the keys to the family car.

Last we saw her, she was heading for the Peace Bridge.

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