Somehow, making mistakes comes naturally. Unfortunately, learning to apologize takes a bit of skill. Today was one of those days when I got reminded of this concept, over and over again.
Earlier this week, Jake, Ben and I had worked together to write the story that graced my blog post yesterday. Today, (tomorrow by the time this is published) I asked Jake and Ben to play together while I edited the pictures for their book to surprise them. They were playing really loudly, and at one point, I walked into their bedroom and asked them to keep it down. Jake confessed to me then that they had been throwing their toy hammer at the window, trying to knock down the action figure perched there. I warned him not to throw things at the window. He looked at me very earnestly and apologized, and then promised me that he would not do that again. As usual, I believed him and went back to my editing.
Approximately 15 minutes later, I heard a loud crash and the sound of shattering glass. I jumped to my feet and ran into the kids bedroom again. Jake was standing there, with his one finger already pointed at Ben accusingly, and the other hand in a mid-shrug as if to say, “what I was I supposed to do?” I looked then at Ben, who was standing there, with a giant mischievous grin on his face. I asked him what happened, and he responded, “I wont tell you.” and giggled. I was annoyed, but really, I had been expecting broken glass to be a decoration in my house since the moment I learned that Ben was a male fetus. I tried to act tough and mean, and set them both on the step for 7 minutes of time out. (Jake sat also, because while he didn’t throw the hammer, he knew better than to allow and even encourage his brother to do so.) I rushed around them picking up glass and hurriedly vacuuming up glass shards, thinking that during the 7 minutes Ben would recognize Jake’s somber affect and get the idea that he had truly done something wrong. It would turn out that I was wrong. Ben began to ask me for food and make jokes from the step. I asked him to stop talking to me because I was upset. (Though really… I just wanted him to get the idea he was in trouble.)
When I allowed him off the step, (just as SuperNanny suggests) I made Ben and Jake give me a hug and apologize. Jake apologized in usual, believable fashion. Ben smiled big and simply said, “I’m sorry!” and smirked. There was no sincerity in his face at all, and I knew it. So, I casually talked about how I might have to sell his toys and the Wii to get the money to pay for a new window. I also suggested that perhaps I’d just pay for the window myself and then make the boys do a list of chores to work the money off. He seemed unaffected by my empty threats.
Later, I was preparing lunch for them, and walked into the living to find Ben playing with the slide photo cropper sitting on a shelf. I asked him not to play with it. He looked at me, as if to spite me, and slammed the piece of the contraption that actually slices through the pictures from one end to the other as quickly as he could. Little did he know, a page of Jake’s school pictures had fallen into the path of the blade, and he sliced through the middle of the best professional pictures Jake has ever posed for. Before I knew it, I was yelling at Benjamin in a way that should be reserved for emergencies only. I grabbed him tightly by his arm and yanked him to the step. Then, I held up the sliced pictures and told him that he had hurt my feelings and he could sit on the step for the rest of the day, because he was intentionally being naughty. Apparently, this time Ben got the message. His little bottom lip began to quiver and tears spilled from his eyes. He was sobbing so hard that he could not even bring himself to plead for forgiveness.
After 5 minutes (one for each year of his life) I allowed him off of the step. Much later that day, he had the task of telling his father what he had done. He was nervous, but he was also brave, and he fessed up to his shenanigans. Ryan quickly forgave him, as I had given him a head’s up and time to process prior to making the same mistake I had.
Much later, Ben and I were in the kitchen, preparing his bedtime snack. Ben looked at me very genuinely and told me he was sorry for the day. I told him that I forgave him, and I was proud that he was learning how to “apologize and mean it.” I told him that everyone makes mistakes. I told him that mothers and fathers, grandpas and grandmas and even presidents make mistakes. The important thing is learning to take responsibility and apologize for your missteps. To which Ben replied, “like when you yelled at me?” And I was reminded of how uncharacteristic that level of anger from me had been to him.
“Yes, Ben, like when I yelled at you earlier. I am sorry I got so mad. I hope that you can forgive me.”
Ben hugged me, and I think that meant that I was forgiven. Perhaps one day, I will write a blog based on the milestone of learning to forgive. For today, I am happy that as a family we recognize when to say we are sorry, and how to mean it.