In this moment, I can accurately predict the future—she won’t eat the cheese bagels that she is about to put in the cart.
How do I know? Last week, between alarm clocks and getting out the door for school, my 12-year-old child complained about being hungry.
She said this at the kitchen table, where two lightly toasted bagels, lightly cream cheesed, sit upon a white-flecked cutting board.
“There are bagels right there,” I say.
“I don’t eat plain bagels.”
She continues to say how she has never eaten or liked plain bagels. And she mentions that she ate one once and became really sick. I don’t fully track ridiculousness. Nor do I argue. I’m a good enough chess player to know that debating foolishness brings about a net loss.
Today, we are in the supermarket. We’ve finished selecting our produce for the week and are at a fork in the aisles. Either left or right around the bakery en route to the fish and meat counters.
We go left, near the deli.
Annie spies a cellophane bag of six cheese bagels, picks it up, and exclaims “I wanted these for breakfast.”
I wish I had veered right, avoiding the side of the bakery where the cheese bagels were. Then we wouldn’t be in this situation. Where I am going to try to convince her that the opposite of what she thinks is actually true. Which, in hindsight, I needn’t have done
Of course, had we taken the route around the olive bar, she probably would have found an overpriced piece of cheese from the counter named for the famous New York City Murray’s shop. And, like the bagels, I could guarantee she wouldn’t eat that, either. She collects fancy cheeses with the best of intentions. But she doesn’t eat them.
Back to the bagels she has just put into the cart.
I say it straight, “You aren’t going to eat those.”
“Yes, I will. I love them for breakfast.”
I’ve known her since her birth. She doesn’t wake up with an appetite. She doesn’t eat breakfast. Never has. And she’s not going to eat these bagels. I know that for certain. At times I suspect she likes to have me buy things or do things just so that she knows I will. No big deal. When she doesn’t eat the $3.99 Bakery Fresh Goodness Asiago Cheese Bagels—as I know she won’t—I will.
We finish up in frozen foods and head to the front to check out. Annie punches Jane’s phone number onto the pin-pad, volunteering our shopping habits to Kroger data crunchers in return for what is pitched as a way for us to save money. I’m certain the conglomerate is benefiting more than we do in this so-called deal.
We will later laugh about our poor choice of self-checkout as something triggers the machine to need a customer service associate to be dispatched at least six times.
Of course, it was annoying the first few times we waited for Denna to finish helping one of the five other customers having similar problems. But, after I remind myself of my newish mantra—what else am I doing that’s so important?—I calm down. After all, I’m with my daughter and she wants to spend time with me.
As though the universe is in on a joke, the asiago cheese bagels also trigger a disembodied computerized female voice to request/command, “Please put the last scanned item back in the bagging area.”
As we wait for Denna, who we now know by name, my pre-harbored resentment begins again.
Why am I buying these? I just know that she isn’t going to eat them. I know it.
The next morning, I am proven right.
I ask, “Honey-bear, do you want me to make you up a bagel? Toasted, lightly buttered, and cream cheesed?”
“No, thank you,” she says from the edge of the kitchen, near the steps to the mudroom where she rearranges the contents of her denim, rose-patterned backpack.
I want to explode: “I knew you weren’t going to eat them. I don’t know why you had me buy them if you weren’t going to eat them. I know you. You don’t eat in the morning. Why didn’t you listen to me?”
But I don’t.
Maybe it’s her momentary nice manners.
Maybe it’s the alignment of the stars.
Maybe it’s because of my years of practicing patience.
Instead I realized that comments about how right I am and how dumb you are are punishing. Subjugating. Shaming.
If I know that it is going to rain later in the day, oughtn’t I take an umbrella, jacket, or hat?
If I know exactly how someone is going to act—and, instead of making plans to not get upset by their action, I’ve chosen to dig in my heels towards future resentment—who is the stupid one?
A few quotes about arguing with foolishness
Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
—Attributed to Mark Twain
Do not answer a dullard in accord with his folly, else you will become like them.
I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.