“Soooorrryyyyyyy” sings F, stepping over a screaming, crying O in the middle of the lounge and runs off laughing as he goes. I scoop up O, who has been whacked over the head with a wooden pick up truck (not life size) “I need a mirror!” he wails, “There will be blood! I will need 4 plasters!” As he hoiks himself up onto the sink, I gently break it to him that he will just have a bump and go off to find his perpetrator. I find him, struggling to get into his sparkliest princess shoe. “Hello Mummy!” He says chirpily “You can be the dragon!”
“Before I play dragons, I want you to say sorry to O” I say in my best SuperNanny voice.
He looks confused, I remember back to the days of having dogs and reading repeatedly that you have to tell them off in the moment, not later. It obviously applies to children too.
“But I already said sorry” he says.
“But where was that sorry from? “ I ask, “Your heart or your bottom?”
“My bottom, Mummy” he says matter of factly. “Shall we try saying sorry from your heart? “ I suggest. Cue, large sigh from F and then an extra loud “SORRRRRYYYYYYYYY O!” and he runs to plant a kiss on the back of his knee. O pushes him away and waggles his finger “No smiley faces for you, “ he points triumphantly to the slightly barren smiley face chart.
About three minutes after leaving the womb, we strive to teach our children the importance of please, thank you and sorry. But for them they could be saying crumpet, noodles and bottom in terms of meaningfulness.
They say (I always imagine THEY to live in an enormously high tower on top of the world, surrounded by screens where they watch how the rest of the world does things (wrongly) and jot down the right way to do things, their way … gleefully raking in millions every time somebody says They say…) anyway, they say that the best way for a child to realise what they’ve done and the consequences is time out, be it a naughty chair, step or time in their room away from the fun. I do this, sometimes successfully, sometimes disastrously, but when they’re 25 it would be helpful for them to say Sorry and mean it, rather than sit on a chair facing a blank wall for 25 minutes.
There are moments when O will simultaneously say an empty Sorry whilst pushing F headfirst into the sandpit, but there are also moments when he will voluntarily offer an apology when he realizes that throwing F’s most cherished princess book over the wall, was possibly not the nicest thing to do ever. He is also good at presenting me with a summary of sorrys at bedtime. “Goodnight, I’m really sorry for throwing a cd at you when you were driving,, for screaming, for …” the list goes on. I thank him for saying sorry and he asks if that equals a smiley face.
Yesterday in a particularly crowded public place, F bored of his ice-cream decides to bite O. “OWWWWWWWWW!” howls O “ HE BOTE (O’s past tense consists of adding an o and an e to every word) my WILLLLLYYYYYYYYYY!”
“F, No!” I shout. F twirls and cackles a witchy laugh. I am trying to make him sit down, whilst holding onto a thrashing screaming hopefully not willyless O.
“Can you say sorry, please?” I plead.
“NAH!” whoops F, dancing to his spectators.
“SAY SORRY!” barks O , whipping down his pants. “Is there blood???” he whimpers, I check and there is in fact a teeny tiny speck of blood and some vampire-esque tooth marks. “There is!” he sobs, “My willy is going to fall off like my nail and a new one will take ages to grow back!” He wails.
I console him while trying to discipline a most unremorseful toddler.
When O has calmed down a bit, he kneels down to F and asks in a voice that sounds like mine “Is biting my willy naughty or nice? “
F pretends to think. “Really really nice!” He beams, doing a spot of breakdancing. We all give up.
At home, F asks me where his toy dog is. I tell him that I washed it and it’s drying. His brow furrows, “Is that naughty or nice, Mummy? Say sorry, please. From your bottom no, heart yes. Ok Mummy?”