During and after rehearsal I had an interesting discussion with Jodie about the importance of keeping up a professional 'veneer' during times of crisis. Lack of sleep, food, and an intensely stressful week getting everything finished in time had kept me on edge all day, so I found it quite challenging to be obliging and friendly to difficult parents when all I wanted was to have that project finished and out of my hair at last.
For the most part, I let Jodie deal with them, but it was insightful for me to see just how accomodating she was with them, despite the extra work it meant piling on for her. It's easy to forget that, in a way, the manner in which you talk to the client is just as important as the actual work itself, as it's all about customer satisfaction in the end.
On the other hand, I do think there's a fine line between being accomodating, and becoming a pushover, and there is a point at which you have to say 'no more'. I think that if I hadn't had Jodie there to share the burden of the extra work, that point would have come a lot earlier for me, and I'd have had to politely decline, explaining my other work commitments to them. I think that this would still have been a professional way to handle the situation. After all, the parents who were difficult would simply have not thought of how much work had already been invested in making the costumes, and I think that they would have accepted a polite decline. Necessary changes such as adding ties to hats that are falling off are all well and good, but adding thumbholes to a child's costume just because most of the others have them and he feels left out... really?
And I think there are plenty of other situations where this would apply as well. Already in the little theatre experience I've had, I've come across jokes about the demands of actors, yet aren't we in danger of encouraging this behaviour by mollycoddling them too much with our 'professional veneer'?
I don't know, I think it's a tricky situation to get right, and I'm going to be monitoring my own behaviour in similar future situations to see how best to get the balance right. I think the important thing is to approach the situation on a footing of equals, and to be able to decide impartially whether the expectations are fair. After all, I'm too apt to pile on too much work for myself anyway, without taking it from other people as well!