Socha was crying in a Galway gift shop when we wouldn’t buy her a ring (again). During her previous tantrum, Socha told us she’d be happy if only she found a coin on the street. Trying to distract her from the ring and the current tantrum, Shannon planted a 5 euro cent coin on the ground for her to “find.” This sneaky parenting tactic seemed surprisingly effective, and her mood lightened immediately. Socha showed her shiny coin to the shopkeeper. The grandfatherly Irish shopkeeper with a twinkle in his eye then reached into his till and handed Socha a US quarter.
Yes, Socha was just given money by the shopkeeper in a store where we didn’t buy anything and we were just having a tantrum that probably drove away a few customers. Not much money, and he probably couldn’t exchange foreign currency that small anyway, but still. I don’t recall a store ever just giving me money.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped to listen to a band playing some traditional Irish music in the street. Socha started dancing so exuberantly along to the music that the band reached into their guitarcase full of coins and gave her money, this time a full euro coin, I think. Starving musicians on the street don’t usually toss money at the tourists while they play. But maybe they do pay homage to visiting leprechauns?
But the biggest leprechaun moment involved the ring.
After being given a quarter and “finding” a euro nickel, Socha’s mood had improved. We strolled along the harborfront (and the fastest-flowing river in Europe!) to a playground. Socha met some local kids and had good time playing.
|Playing with Shauna, a local Galwegian|
|Band that gave Socha their tip money, Galway|
Then we walked down to the quite-polluted beach, full of debris from the entire city washing down the river. Socha started collecting shells as she navigated around the seaweed and garbage.
|Collecting shells, and enjoying stomping on the air bladders in the seaweed (Galway).|
“Daddy, what if I trade these beau-ti-ful shells for the ring?” she said in her sing-song voice.
The kid is persistent – the last ring tantrum had been over an hour earlier – I thought maybe she’d forgotten about it.
|Finding the shiniest, most beautiful shells to trade.|
“Um, I don’t think it really works that way, Socha.”
“But Daddy, look how pretty and shiny they are!”
I was stuck – should I encourage her entrepreneurial spirit, as she tried to find a way to “get to yes” on her ring problem when we kept saying “no,” or just try to get her to understand that (except in rare New Amsterdam real estate deals), most people don’t except shells as payment?
I decided to go with statistics.
"Sure, you can try. As long as you understand that it probably will not work. I mean really probably will not work. And you have to not get upset when he tells you 'No.'"
“But m…a…y…b…e… he’ll say yes!”
“Right, maybe he’ll say yes. But probably not.
Remember, if you try a thousand times, it won’t work nine hundred and ninety-nine times."
We carried the shells back in a used coffee cup. Our prime requirement in choosing our lunch stop was that it have a bathroom, so that we could wash the shells off and make them as presentable as possible for the proposed deal.
I explained over and over that this will probably not work.
Shannon asked me “is this a good idea?” and I wasn’t sure.
I assumed the shopkeeper would say no. Of course he would say no. The ring was 25 euro! Socha might get upset, but would learn (maybe) to take “no” for an answer, or maybe better understand probability.
If she took the “no” well without getting excessively upset, I thought I might sneak back in and purchase it for a birthday present that her grandfather could give her later. That was the plan, such that it was.
As we walked back into the “gives-out-quarters-for-free” gift shop, I prefaced the proposal with “Excuse me, my daughter has a business proposal for you, and I have told her you will almost certainly say ‘no,’ but I would let her ask you just in case.”
“Ok – what have you got for me?” He said.
She puts her shiniest, purple-est, most irridescent and beautiful-est mussel shell (recently washed in the restaurant bathroom) on the counter.
“Will you trade on of those rings for this shell?”
“Sure, lass. Find one that fits.
This was not what I had planned. These rings cost 25 euro! Not Tiffany, but also not a lollipop you just give to every kid that walks in the door.
She searches for one in (almost) her size, and chooses the Claddagh ring with the pink gemstone, because pink is her favorite color, even though the turquoise one would have been appropriate for her birthstone.
And she walks out.
I stay behind, stunned.
I pull out my credit card, starting to effusively thank the shopkeeper for playing along with our little family ruse, and offering the payment he surely expects. Don’t want to steal now, do we?
“No, no.” he says, refusing my payment. “Kids need a bit o’ magic in their lives.”
And that was that.
Socha has a beautiful new sterling silver Claddagh ring with a pink stone that she bought with a mussel shell that she collected on a trashy harbor-side beach in Galway, Ireland and washed off in a restaurant bathroom.
|The entrepreneur / leprechaun, with ring (out of focus).|
That’s the kindest gift from a stranger I think I’ve ever been on the receiving end of. Even after the ring trade, we had some more serious tearful moments that day, including one where I threatened that she would have to take the ring back to the store if she didn’t show appropriate levels of appreciation for the ring.
It took a bit of time to get her attitude adjusted (or maybe just to get past the jet lag), but now she is very concerned about taking care of her new ring. It sort of fits on her thumb (but is still too big). She takes it off at night and puts it away for safekeeping. She kept one glove on over it at the playground, despite being sweaty and hot, because she didn’t want it to come off (her other hand was ungloved for climate control).
If you are in Galway, please frequent the Judy Greene Pottery shop in the Latin Quarter, just off the main pedestrian shopping street (map). They have some lovely pottery in addition to rings (!), souvenir trinkets, and the kindest shopkeeper in Ireland.
|Please frequent this shop. And offer to pay with cash money, even if they might accept shells.|
If anyone knows anything about parenting a leprechaun, I’ll take advice.
P.S. Given her success, the leprechaun tried today to trade a chestnut she had collected in Paris for a bag of fancy marshmallows at the Duty Free shop in Charles de Gaulle airport. She was unsuccessful, but at least I stopped the confused clerk from throwing away the chestnut. Maybe her magic only works in Ireland.