This is a little story of how I found myself witnessing an awkward situation. The reason I submit it here is because while it was going on, I found myself thinking of EHell! And wondering what Admin, or any of you, might do in the situation. As it happens, I found myself at a complete loss. I couldn’t think of anything that would improve matters without also running the risk of making it worse, so in the end I did nothing. I’m afraid this means I don’t actually know how things turned out, but the incident has stuck in my mind, and I’ve often wondered what you would have made of it.
This past December, I was doing a grocery shop in my local supermarket. As is often the case, the supermarket had put displays of tempting seasonal items next to the checkouts – in this case, small stuffed penguin toys, priced about £8 each. As I was waiting to start loading my groceries onto the belt, a father with his young daughter joined the queue one over from me (I’m sure you can see where this is going).
The daughter was somewhere between eight and ten years old. Sure enough, as soon as she laid eyes on these cute penguin toys, she wanted one. She began very politely: “Dad, can we get one of those?” The father refused, in a perfectly nice manner: “No. You already have the teddy bear. You can’t have two toys today.” And so began the most determined campaign I have ever seen from a child to get something they wanted. To give her credit, she didn’t throw a tantrum, shout, or say anything particularly disrespectful, but my goodness this girl tried everything. The only thing she wasn’t willing to give up was the stuffed teddy bear already in their trolley. She tried bargaining with nebulous treats in her future, but she was clearly determined to have both the teddy bear, and the penguin.
Throughout all this, the father was refusing to give in, and clearly doing his best to do so in a reasonable manner. Every argument his daughter came up with, he refuted reasonably and politely.
I want to stress how extremely persistent and irritating this girl was. She just wouldn’t give up. I like children on the whole, but I personally wanted to discipline this girl by taking away all of her stuffed animals and other toys for a month. (In reality, I just loaded my groceries and ignored them). After several minutes of begging and bargaining, the father did what I would’ve done several minutes beforehand if it had been my child. He said, “We’re not getting that penguin. If you ask for it again, I’ll buy the penguin, and the teddy bear, and on the way out they both go into the donation box.” Hoorah! I thought to myself. And the girl did shut up for a second. All seemed calm.
But wait! Just as the daughter was beginning another tired “but Dad…” assault, but clearly winding down, the “Dastardly Woman” joined the queue behind them. The Dastardly Woman saw the girl longingly playing with one of the penguins, and immediately stuck her oar in. EHellions, up to this point I had been witnessing this as a scene between a beleaguered dad and his determined, irritating daughter. Dastardly Woman ushered in the next, unwanted act.
(For description purposes only, Dastardly Woman was between forty and fifty years old, smartly dressed, alone, and with a basket of sensible groceries.)
“Aaaww,” gushed Dastardly Woman, “he needs a home, doesn’t he?” (referring to the stuffed penguin currently being held by irritating daughter). “No,” said the father, clearly exhausted. “He should stay right here. She has too many toys already.” And so the battle began anew: daughter and Dastardly Woman extolling the virtues of owning one of these blasted penguins, and the father putting in the occasional tired “no, she has too many toys already,” etc. I could almost understand it if it was a case of a “friendly” person trying to empathize with the daughter, but this was ridiculous. This woman had just barged in, and was happily making parenting difficult in the most stupendous fashion. I don’t think that was her intent though. She was just happily arrogant in her own point of view, and couldn’t resist plonking it onto everyone else’s reality.
My jaw had metaphorically dropped when Dastardly Woman first spoke, and it was at this point in the proceedings that EHell popped into my head, and my mind went into overdrive trying to think of ways I could help this father without being directly rude to Dastardly Woman, or cruel to Irritating Daughter.
Meanwhile, the discussion continued, Dastardly Woman using such phrases as, “Oh, daddies are mean, aren’t they?”, and, “He needs a home with you, with all his friends, doesn’t he?”
It takes a lot to get me genuinely annoyed nowadays, but this woman was infuriating. It was actually the thought of EHell that stopped me from giving her a piece of my mind, because I realized that I couldn’t think of anything to say to her that wouldn’t then escalate the situation and make it worse for everyone. So I carried on putting my groceries on the belt, paid for them, and left (while the situation carried on behind me).
Is there anything I could have done to support the father without being intrusive? Was there any way to shut down that obnoxious woman without escalating the situation? I would dearly like the advice of EHell Dame, and the opinion of EHellions. This situation happened months ago, and it still makes me cross when I think of it. 0508-17
The father’s only mistake, if it can be called that, is that he waited too long to state the options available thus giving his daughter the opportunity to continue to pressure, whine and beg and it became a spectacle observed by too many people. With my children, continued whining to gain something after being told “No” resulted in the child completely losing it all. Not only the penguin but the teddy bear as well with no hope of reversing my decision. My kids learned very early to not beg or wheedle for me to buy things once the decision had been made to not get it.
Dastardly Woman should have minded her own business and in this situation there was nothing to done by anyone else unless they, too, wanted to be an intrusive busy body.