It was Saturday afternoon, and in about an hour, The Man and I would close the mercantile for the day.
Members of an extended family came in together. Three or four young kids were running around, and two women of the age to be their mothers were looking at magnets. An older woman—probably the grandma—was looking at other items for sale. The men of the family were in and out of the yurt—off to the restroom, taking turns supervising the dog on the porch, offering the ladies souvenir suggestions.
The two smallest kids seemed to be the offspring of one of the women looking at magnets. The girl was maybe three, with long, dark hair that fell past her shoulders. The boy was five or six, wearing one of those floppy cloth hats popular with people going fishing.
The woman and her son had some sort of disagreement in front of the shelves of snacks. The disagreement seemed to be about the theater style boxes of candy. The woman dragged the boy over in front of the register while lecturing him on sharing and who knows what else. Anger was all over the boy’s face, and I could tell he was trying not to cry. The woman was not whispering, and everyone in the store witnessed the lecture. The main body of the lecture was in English, then the woman asked loudly, Capiche? When the boy didn’t respond, the woman demanded, Entiendes? (Do you understand?) The boy gave an indication that he did, indeed, understand. It was maybe the only parental lecture I’ve ever witnessed spanning three languages.
I’m all for parents disciplining kids, setting limits and sticking to them. I see too many kids who seem to be running their families, and I was glad to see this lady taking a stand. However, her little speech seemed all too public. It sure made me uncomfortable, and I could see how the kid might feel humiliated. I would have taken my (theoretical) kid outside or to a quiet area of the store and spoken in a low voice, but I don’t know how this family’s day had gone. Maybe the mom was at the end of her rope.
The conflict was over Whoppers, the delightful malted milk balls I myself do love so much. The boy wanted a box of his own. The mom wanted him to share with his sister.
Once the woman released the boy’s arm and returned to perusing magnets, he and his sister converged on the candy boxes. They each took a box of Whoppers from the shelf and placed them on the counter near the cash register among the bottles of water another family member planned to buy.
When the mother had chosen her magnet, she brought it up to the counter and placed it next to a box of Whoppers. I’ll take the magnet, she said to me, and one of these, indicating the Whoppers. The children began squalling about wanting a box of his/her own. The woman held her ground. They could share, she told her children, or they’d have no candy.
The woman said she didn’t need a bag, so once I rang up the box of Whoppers, I handed it directly to her. The still whining children followed the box with their eyes, and the boy tried to intercept the box as it passed into the woman’s hands.
This is my candy, the woman told him. He wasn’t getting any until he was willing to share.
The woman paid with a credit card. When it came time for her to sign the store copy of the credit card ticket, she only had a free hand to hold the pen.
Let me help you with that, I said as I pinned down the ticket so it wouldn’t slide around the counter while she signed. You have your hands full.
She looked me right in the eye and said seriously, I sure do!
As they walked toward the door, the children agreed to share, and their mom told them how she would divvy up the candy so they’d each have their own portion.
I also have a story where it’s the child who has his hands full.