It’s Not All Mary Poppins


“Ow!” Anna’s voice is rich with indignation, and a small measure of actual pain. “Timmy, you hurted my elbow!”

“Sorry!” Timmy doesn’t look up from his pile of tiny plastic bears. “Sorry, sorry.”

Perhaps noting a smidge less than genuine concern in his voice, Anna ups the ante.

“You need to kiss it better.” She waves her elbow near his nose. He leaps up and starts dancing around it.

“I don’t want to kiss it. I only want to say ‘Sorry’. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!” He sings the word as he dances around her. He isn’t seeking to tease, he’s just having fun.

And he’s not at all sorry.

“You know what, Timmy? I think Anna’s right. I think you do need to kiss it better. You hurt her elbow. It was an accident, but you still need to pay attention to Anna when you say sorry. Stop dancing and look at Anna’s eyes.”

He complies. And kisses the elbow.

“There!” He says, looking into her face. “Is that better?”

Ah. Success! Because that genuine attention and concern? That’s the point of a “sorry”. Anna knows it, too.

“Yes, it is. Do you want this blue bear now?”

And the play rolls seamlessly on…

April 17, 2009 - Posted by | Anna, manners, socializing, Timmy | , , ,


  1. I work hard on “sorry”. I want them to know that there is a difference between an apology and an “I’m sorry that you got hurt”. They avoid saying something when someone is hurt because they think it’s an admission of guilt. But empathy is good even when you didn’t cause the pain and an “I’m sorry that happened” can go a long way. When they are guilty I try to get them to use a full sentence: “I’m sorry that I hit you” so they’ll see the difference.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. Yay, I got something right! Or at least, inadvertently, my nearly-3 son did. He never utters the word sorry, but he always gives a kiss or a hug. I think that’s okay, because it’s the intention to make it better rather than a meaningless word. But parent-friends often seem rather disapproving that I don’t force him to say sorry.

    I like Jill’s full sentence idea very much, though. That’s really sensible.

    Comment by Karen | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. A little aside: I looooove your blog. And mostly it’s because it makes me miss my little class of tiny toddlers that I used to lead. SIGH.

    “And the play rolls seamlessly on…” Love that. So true.

    Comment by elisa | April 18, 2009 | Reply

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