When I was a kid all I wanted was freedom and independence. I didn’t know that was what I wanted and I definitely couldn’t put that in words. All I knew was that I wanted to do stuff and go places. One of the first ways I started interacting with the world was by ordering water. Ordering water sounds weird but it is one of the first things you can actually do as a kid. I didn’t have any money but that didn’t matter because water was free. Anytime I was out in public, especially at a mall, I would tell my parents I’d be right back and then go to the closest food stand and ask for a water. Most of the time they would treat me like like any other customer but occasionally I would get a, “buzz off kid.” I quickly learned what kind of restaurants would and wouldn’t give me water. It was an important step in learning to navigate the world.
My oldest daughter is now at that age. I don’t know where she got it, I never mentioned it to her, but now whenever we are out-and-about she will step away for a moment and return with a water in hand. I think it is cute so while I don’t necessarily encourage it, I don’t discourage it.
The kids are on Spring Break so I took a couple days off too. While breaking together we found ourselves bumming around the mall. There is a coffee shop my daughter often gets water from so when she disappeared for a moment I knew where she had gone. We regrouped around a little table with cream, sugar and a couple of water pitchers. She was filling her tall cup when her little sister asked for some water. I sent my oldest to get another cup when I noticed two things. The first was the stack of small cheap Solo cups sitting next to the water pitchers and the second was the scruffy looking barista that was mean-mugging me.
My daughter returned with another cup in hand so she filled it up and offered it to her sister. The cup didn’t have a lid and there weren’t any at the little station so I told her to go ask for a couple. This is where I sensed something was fishy. We all approached the counter and my daughter stepped forward to speak to the barista, it wasn’t the guy who was giving me looks moments ago. The woman had a weird look on her face as she hesitated in granting my daughter’s request for a lid. Here eyes darted between me and my daughter and she looked like she wanted to say something but she just let out an exasperated breath and handed over a couple of lids. As we were walking away I saw the stack of cups by the register and it all suddenly made sense.
My daughter had helped herself to the cups. Another way of putting that is that she stole the cups. That was why the guy was giving me the looks. He had come out to the water station to say something but when he saw me he had lost his nerve. A quick aside, I am not an attractive man, not to say that I am ugly but I’m not pretty to look at and my resting face is emotionless and often dead-eyed. I was wearing a hoodie and torn jeans so, to someone who doesn’t know me, I can be a little intimidating at first glance. I’m sure this is also why the woman behind the counter behaved the way she did too. When she started to act as she did my mind immediately went to the time a guy yelled at me for asking for water and I’m sure I furrowed my brow. I thought they were just being stereotypically annoying baristas but it turns out I was being a crap dad.
I asked my daughter what had just happened and she was just quiet. When we got home we had a little talk, well it started as a little talk but it turned into a long talk. My mom used to tell me how embarrassed she was whenever I got in trouble. Now I can totally relate to what she said. Not only was my daughter bad but I was complicit. Oh, and if you haven’t already, now would be a good time to go back and read last week’s post.