Tricks are for Kids / by Courtney Mehlhaff

I'm going to go out on a limb here, since I'm not a mom, and say this: Kids can be assholes. I think many of my friends with children would agree with this statement in general, and some of the best parents will even apply it to their own offspring.

But I'm thinking of a specific case that happened a couple weeks ago. I showed up at my local grocery store, ready to restock my oft-bare kitchen cupboards. As I wheeled my cart through the produce section, I noticed a woman and her daughter, maybe four or five years old, strolling ahead of me.

Let me be clear on this. At no point did I antagonize this kid. I didn't make eye contact or wave at her or smile or mouth a greeting of any kind. I certainly didn't make a face.

However, for some reason, this kid decided to act super scared of me. I say "act," because when her mother wasn't looking, she was fine. But as soon as her mother turned in her direction, this girl looked in my direction and cowered behind the cart.

You know how you cross paths with the same people over and over again when you're shopping? Unfortunately, that was the case here.

It was quite the performance, so I don't blame the mother for starting to cast wary, confused, and/or pissed off glances at me. I didn't know what to do. Protesting might make me look even guiltier, as would suddenly veering off into a different aisle.

And what reason would she have to doubt her daughter? I'm a potentially harmful stranger who might be doing all manner of things behind her back, and such an angel would never lie. Except that kids do lie. All the time. 

So there I was. A creepy, childless woman trailing well behind a mischievous little thespian. She might have been having a blast, but she was making me look like a real weirdo. I desperately wanted to draw my index finger slowly across my neck while giving that kid crazy eyes the next time she shot a trembling lip at me.

But I didn't. Because I left my apartment to get food, not arrested.

These are the kinds of moral victories you sometimes have to sacrifice when you're dealing with assholes of any age.  You win this time, little girl. This time.