It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to terms with the inherent irrationality and sociopathy of five-year olds.
I don’t expect them to respect the unwritten laws of communication, like the ones that govern interrupting others or using a voices that don’t sound like a cross between freight train brakes and a wounded dolphin. I understand that the word “stop” can only be heard after it’s third consecutive usage, and only then when the tone and decibels reach a particularly fierce level. And I’m still seeking an explanation of “sharing” and “blaming” that doesn’t involve either tears or crayons.
But there’s one thing I’m not giving up on. That’s teaching them when they should say, “I’m sorry.”
What’s so hard about it, really? It’s two words. “Booger nuggets” is also two words, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem saying that. (It has the advantage of being both gross and hysterical, so it has some distinct advantages). They’ll drop a caterpillar and apologize, but saying it to another human being requires a god damn intervention. I don’t even care if they mean it, frankly…just spit it out so we can all move on.
So when my daughter ignored her mothers repeated requests to stop grabbing her foot (she had exceeded the three-stop threshold and kept going) and eventually caused an accidental but painful injury, I asked her to apologize.
Then I put her on my lap and explained why she should. Then I asked her again.
My daughter is a stubborn kid. She knew she was wrong and didn’t want to experience the guilt. I get it. But I’m a stubborn kid, too. And I expect apologies when they’re warranted.
So I told her I wasn’t letting go of her until she said she was sorry.
You can guess how that went over.
Her body started writhing in my arms, hoping to call upon the dexterity of a Chinese gymnast to escape. My grip tightened, and began deploying techniques I hadn’t used since my ill-fated experimentation with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “All you have to do is say you’re sorry and I’ll let you go,” I calmly reminded her.
“NO! LET ME GO!” she wailed.
And so it went for a five minutes or so. Knowing I was locked in a battle of wills where victory was impossible and probably not worth it, I gave up and let her go. She ran off crying and disappeared into her room.
A few minutes later she emerged with a piece of paper. At first glance it was really sweet…a written apology to her mother.
But my wife started laughing when she read this. Why, you may ask? She handed it to me and said, “Check out the other side.”
I turned it over, and here’s what it said.
Looks like we can add another session for her future therapist.
But I got that apology…