“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry he snatched that toy from her. J, no snatching!”
“It’s ok, usually she’s always doing the snatching and I’m constantly having to apologise for it.”
“I know, right? And I find that I’m always saying sorry but mostly for the benefit of other parents.”
“She’s still learning to share, but this age is still a little too early to them to fully understand what it means. They’re all learning, aren’t they?”
I had this conversation with a mum I met during a playdate some weeks back and it got me thinking about the things we apologise for and why we make our apologies. We’ve been having quite a number of playdates during the week and I hear these every single time, from myself and all parents/care-givers alike.
“Sorry she grabbed that toy.”
“Sorry we’re in the way.”
“Sorry he’s walking too slowly.”
“Sorry she won’t share.”
“Sorry she’s too slow.”
“Sorry he didn’t mean it.”
Whenever we hear a child cry, whimper, complain, raise his voice, we 1) look up to check if it’s our kid and 2) if so, instantly jump in to intervene. It seems that we are all too quick to make our apologies. At that moment, it never seems to matter what ensued or who pushed/pulled/hit/skipped a turn. All parents of the kids involved naturally end up saying sorry pretty damn quick and then the kids all run off in different directions. But, should we?
When we apologise for our kids, are we doing it to teach our children something or simply to assuage the unhappiness of others? Do we apologise because it’s the ‘polite’ thing to do? Do our kids actually learn from us or will they take for granted that we will always get them out of their mess? If we assume they learn from modelling and example, is it a good thing that they see us apologising immediately without really dealing with the issue or talking about it? And my biggest issue these days is, since TT is at the age where she’s learning about people and her environment, and how to socialise, should she really constantly be remorseful for learning and trying new things? Will this inevitably create a fear of making mistakes? As a child I would get very panicky whenever I made a mistake or got in the way of adults. And I sure as hell don’t want TT to have those feelings. Right now, I’m hearing way too many ‘sorries’ being bandied around and it’s creating a conflict within me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that sorry should be removed from TT’s vocabulary. I’ve been teaching TT to apologise when she does something hurtful or intentionally defies us (and trust me, she has a look on her face when she knows she’s doing something she shouldn’t be, and I know that look). However, l’m beginning to consider that, especially during playtime, we shouldn’t step in so quickly to ‘sort things out for them’. I’m not making excuses for her behaviour, neither do I want TT to be an entitled and ungrateful child. I would like her to learn to be independent, to be aware of other people’s feelings, and eventually take responsibility for her own actions when she can respond meaningfully.
At 26 months, TT is still processing a lot that’s happening in the world around her. She’s learning new things everyday and I can see that she’s really great at empathising. When I hurt myself or when she’s a bit rough with play, she’ll come and pat me while saying, “Sorry, Mummy”. Sometimes, I have to explain I was careless and she needn’t apologise since it wasn’t her fault, or it’s ok because she didn’t mean to hurt me but she has to be more gentle. Is she picking this up from me, to jump the gun and say sorry like it’s second nature? Perhaps she means “I’m sorry you’re hurting”? Either way, I believe she’s starting to comprehend actions and consequences, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg and she’s got a long way to go. I can’t expect her to behave according to the norms and social boundaries that we as adults are used to.
I don’t think she fully understands sharing or why she has to. I mean, to a toddler, it’s a case of survival of the fittest – you snooze, you lose, I got it first, why should I share it with you just because you want it? (And truth be told, life isn’t that fair in the real world). Neither does she grasp the concept of time and why she has to do something quickly. “Put on your shoes, stop taking them off”, “I need to change you, stop running away”, “we are late”, and “we have to leave NOW” all hold absolutely NO meaning for her. So it’s not like she’s intentionally getting in someone’s way or scheming to make our lives difficult by taking as long as possible to do something (although I know it sure feels that way sometimes!). Everything kids do right now is based on instinct and natural responses, and it takes a long time for them to process the extremely complex ideas and feelings that we want them to learn in order to function in civil society.
Very naturally, I often ask TT to apologise for something she’s done. But if I actually think about it, quite a few of these apologies might not have been necessary. I need to take a pause, talk to her and try to help her understand. For she will make mistakes, and I want her to know that it’s alright to make mistakes, because that’s one of the ways that we learn. She’ll be getting a free pass sometimes, but only until she’s fully conscious of the distinction between right and wrong. So, if you cross paths with us, please understand if we don’t say sorry for everything; TT’s still learning and she shouldn’t be made afraid to try. We were all there once, young, wide-eyed and helpless. And we probably could have used a little more patience from others.
Powered by Facebook Comments