Friday, January 6, 2012


We've been working a bit on the whole "I'm sorry" thing with Ethan for awhile now. He gets the concept. He's especially mindful of things like say, accidentally stomping on Anna's bare foot. "I'm sorry," he'll say earnestly. If he's actually wronged her purposefully, and he can see how mad she is, he'll sometimes say he's sorry, more out of fear I think than remorse. And often when he willfully disobeys, I have to ask him: "Are you sorry for what you did?" And often I don't know if he actually is, but he will very seriously say "yes," because he knows it would be a very bad thing to say no.

The "I forgive you" is more complicated. I've been doing that after he says he's sorry, because I want him to hear the words. He needs to know the slate gets wiped totally clean.

I think of the words and how foreign they must be to little ears. Forgive. What does that mean, anyway? Ethan hears it as a phrase that he knows he's suppose to insert somewhere. Several times recently, after he's done something to upset me, and we have our little talk and I lean close to start to give him a hug, he'll whisper "I forgive you," in a comforting way, and begin to pat my back before I can do the same to him.

Actually, I'm the one who is forgiving you, I sometimes say pointlessly, as if that's making much sense. And it sounds so...harsh, really. So usually I just hug him and repeat the words he's already said to me.

This morning we got in the car and before Ethan could finish buckling his seat belt I did it for him. He loves buckling his own seat belt. It's an independence thing. But I knew he had a bulky sweatshirt on under the coat and the straps were pulled so tight, it'd be hard for him to do on his own.

"I was supposed to do that!" he wailed, disappointed.

"I know Ethan, but I was just trying to help," I told him. "Sorry."

There was a pause, and then quietly, "I forgive you," he said to me.

Way to go, kiddo! I thought at first. You finally got the context right.

Then I looked back at him. "Ethan?"


"Thank you for forgiving me," I said. And as we drove to school all I could think was that he may not understand the mechanics and the conventions of the concept, but still, still: what would it be like if I was so eager to extend my hand and say the words; to forgive? What if I was excitedly awaiting the opportunity...looking for the right release, rather than hold someone in my debt?

What if?


truthinlove said...

If we were all looking for that opportunity to forgive, the world we live in would change dramatically. What a great story. Thanks for sharing!

Floortime Lite Mama said...

what a sweet story
darling boy !!