The half-hearted apologies from Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and her Northern deputy Michelle O'Neill in response to public fury over their attendance at the funeral of an IRA veteran in Belfast during which social distancing rules were flouted reminded me of a frustrating afternoon I once spent on holiday.
I can't remember what sparked it off. One of the children had said or done something to their younger sister, and an argument ensued. We were walking through a lovely part of rural France, the sun was shining, crickets chirruping, but it just went on and on.
"I'm not sorry I did it," the first child kept saying, "but I'm sorry if it upset you." This in turn provoked the inevitable retort: "Then you're not really sorry, are you?"
Now it's being played out on the national stage. The two women are not actually sorry for attending the funeral of IRA enforcer Bobby Storey, despite being leaders of a party which helped draw up guidelines barring more than 10 family members from attending other funerals. They've made it clear they don't even think they did anything wrong. They're just sorry that it's now causing them trouble.
Realising they had to acknowledge the pain caused to those who've had to bury loved ones during lockdown with no chance to say goodbye, they went for the classic half-apology instead.
Mary Lou, speaking on radio, said the funeral had "caused some hurt" and "for that I am very sorry". Michelle O'Neill said families are "experiencing more hurt" and "I am sorry for that". It's hardly a coincidence that the two women's utterances were practically identical. Do they really think people can't see exactly what's going on here?
The contrition, meagre as it was, didn't even last a day. Asked to clarify her statement a short while later, O'Neill insisted that she would "never apologise for attending the funeral of my friend".
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes wisdom: "Then you're not really sorry, are you?"
As ever in Northern Ireland, the row has been horribly politicised, and many, including the SDLP, who are hardly diehard unionists, still think O'Neill should step aside while the matter is investigated; but it probably won't lead to another suspension of the Assembly.
Nor should it. Northern Irish politicians can't pull down Stormont every time they find themselves at odds, especially when there are potentially more divisive issues down the line. To her credit, the response of the DUP's First Minister Arlene Foster has been measured throughout. It's a crisis she neither sought nor welcomes.
But that doesn't mean it couldn't still spiral out of control.
The whole thing has uncomfortable echoes of the Dominic Cummings affair, when those at the heart of the British government bent the rules around social isolation to their own advantage while demanding that everyone else obey stricter guidelines.
That blew over eventually too, but it left a bad taste, and may still do Boris Johnson damage.
Radio and TV in Northern Ireland has been full in recent days of bereaved families sharing their stories of funerals under lockdown. The son of former Belfast trade unionist Lily Kerr died suddenly a few months ago of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 38. Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, she described not being allowed an open coffin, or to keep her son in the house for a wake. They were even forbidden from putting a notice in the local paper in case it encouraged people to turn up. She said that seeing the rules being flouted for Bobby Storey's funeral made her feel that "our loved ones didn't matter".
One elderly woman in a care home had to watch the funeral of her husband of 70 years on a smartphone. It's not just ordinary people who made these sacrifices. Edwin Poots is the DUP's agriculture minister at Stormont. His father died in April. Charlie Poots was a founder member of the DUP, and normally many would have wanted to pay their respects. Instead there was a small, socially distanced funeral in accordance with the rules.
It's for these reasons that this story has such resonance even with people who normally don't follow politics. The least that people expect from those who make the rules is that they don't also break them.
The most serious charge being levelled against SF is that their attendance at the funeral undermines public confidence in the official coronavirus strategy, and might lead people to throw caution to the wind; but ultimately it's the taint of personal hypocrisy which most tarnishes politicians' reputations, and SF keeps providing its detractors with more examples.
Days before Bobby Storey's funeral, Michelle O'Neill also swanned down to Dublin for a photo opportunity at a time when Micheal Martin's own family couldn't come up from Cork to see the new Taoiseach receive the biggest honour of his political life.
The double standards were again on display as SF TDs gathered on the plinth at Leinster House to start life as the official new opposition and studiously abided by HSE advice on maintaining a two metre distance from other people, for all the world as if everybody hadn't seen some of them in Belfast the day before making a mockery of the restrictions.
Being seen to act as if there is one set of rules for important people, and another for the rest, exposed the elite pretensions behind the phoney egalitarian facade.
It could be, though, that a row over breaches of social distancing rules actually suits SF, because it diverts attention from another glaring feature of the funeral, but one which has drawn too little comment, namely the way in which the event was self-policed.
Mary Lou McDonald tried to say that the PSNI had "meticulously planned" the funeral alongside republicans, as if partners in the enterprise. The Assistant Chief Constable resolutely refuted it.
What actually happened is that the police took a back seat, and allowed the event to be "stewarded" by SF itself. Hundreds of unidentifiable men in identical white shirts, black trousers and ties lined the streets for what was a show of strength as much as it was one of solidarity with the dead man's family. This was street theatre designed to send a message.
Just in case there was any doubt, Mary Lou McDonald made it clear that she would have attended the funeral even if she'd been elected Taoiseach last weekend. To put it another way, a woman who aspires to lead the Republic would see no problem, either morally or constitutionally, in a Taoiseach paying homage to a man who not only masterminded the largest bank robbery of recent times, but was in addition a planner and an enforcer in a murderous Mafia-style criminal organisation.
In the circumstances, getting grief for being hypocritical about social distancing may turn out to be the best diversion SF could have hoped for. Better for them that it's their hypocrisy which is exposed rather than their degeneracy.