At our private pool the other day, six-year old Grace asked me for $1.50 to buy a snack from the vending machine. She likes the process of choosing a snack and putting in the money more than eating the snack. Feeling generous, I gave her the dollar bill and two quarters.
She was in the snack shack housing the two vending machines for so long that I finally put down my novel and went to check. Sometimes the snacks get stuck in the spiral dispenser. But no, she was just pondering the choices. She’d been in there about ten minutes.
About five minutes later, she approached my table, clutching two quarters but no snack.
“Where’s your snack?”
“Well, these girls pressed a number and it wasn’t what I wanted and I told them not to but they did.”
The vending machines are the kind where you press the letter and number combination that corresponds to the snack you want.
“They pressed the number after you put in the dollar?”
She didn’t seem upset, but surprised. And bewildered.
I, on the other hand, was angry. “Show me,” I said.
So, we went into the snack shack and she told me again what happened. I went over it again: “So, you put in the dollar and then the girls pressed a number?”
“Where are the Cheetos?”
“They put them on the microwave.” Sure enough, there behind me were the Cheetos. I picked them up. Grace doesn’t even like that kind of Cheetos.
Just then, the girls came into the snack shack doorway.
Two girls, about eight years old.
“Which one of you has a parent here?” I asked so I would know which one was a member and which one was a guest.
The girl on the left said, “I do.”
“And are you the one who pressed the number after Grace put in her money?”
“It was an accident.”
“An accident. You just happened to press the number after she put in her dollar?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Well, Grace would not choose this snack.” I waved the Cheeto package. “She doesn’t even like this. She put in the money and you pressed the number just to be mean.”
“No, I wasn’t trying to be mean.”
“Yes, you were. It was a mean trick to play on her.”
Grace pipes up. “Mom, it’s okay with me.”
“It’s not okay with me. Go swim.” Off she went.
To the culprit: “Do you want me to go talk to your mom?”
“I think you need to apologize to my daughter. What you did was mean and NOT okay with me.”
I stalked off to my table, deciding not to tell her mother what she’d done. I would have if the girl had been lippy with me and not repentant. The little girl came right over to my daughter (who was in the pool) and apologized. My daughter came up to me a while later and said, “You didn’t need to be so mean to that girl.”
I wasn’t the slightest bit mean. It would have been mean if I’d taken that child’s money, plugged it into the machine and purchased her something she hated. It would have been mean if I kicked her in the shins. But scolding her for doing something that was out of line was my job. And I take that job very seriously.
My job? Protecting my kids from bullies, even when they are cute little girls with big eyes wearing swimsuits. Don’t mess with my kid.