Apology Accepted

I return to the bathroom where only seconds before I had stationed Eli in front of the pot with instructions to tinkle before bedtime. This is important, you see, because otherwise he forgets to go until he is playing with giant chocolate Lego blocks in Dreamland, where instead of toilets they have golden trees that sing Raffi songs when you pee on them.

As I approach I see that he is bent over like an ostrich, with his head almost completely in the toilet bowl. Apparently the boy is interested in a plumbing career. Naturally, I am horrified, and so I bellow in that idiot-speak we parents have during our worst nobody-warned-me-about-this moments.

“Hey, uh . . . boy! Unh-unh!! No, no, no, no, no!!! Get your, uh, get that, uh, get your head out of the toilet!!!!

He stands up straight as an arrow, his lip quivering. Add one more page to my weighty file of screw ups as a father. He pulls up his pajama pants, grabs his little blue blankie, and stands there looking at me with glistening eyes.

I get down on my knees in front of him. “I’m sorry for yelling, little buddy. Do you forgive me?”

More lip quivering. “No.”

“I shouldn’t have yelled, because you didn’t know any better. I just didn’t want you to get any germs. Toilets are dirty. We shouldn’t stick our heads in them. But I shouldn’t have yelled. Did I scare you?”


“I’m sorry. Do you forgive me?”

He thinks about it for a second. “No.”

I pick him up and plant a kiss on his soft little face. “I won’t yell again.”

He perks up. “Yeah, the next time I stick my head in da toilet, you won’t yell at me.”

“I won’t yell, but you shouldn’t stick your head in the toilet, okay?”

More thought. “O-o-o-kay.”

And now as I type this he is sitting in my lap, a happy little lamb, last night forgotten. I never used to be an “I’m sorry” person. Now it feels like I say it all the time. But I like “I’m sorry” people more than the other kind. Don’t you?


  1. Lenise

    Hmmm… I don’t ever remember my parents apologizing to us. They probably thought it would make us brats 😉 (In general, they were very good parents, though.)

    I know I’ve felt I had to apologize to Jay on a few occasions, even though he doesn’t really understand yet. Modeling appropriate apologies seems like a very good thing for a parent to do.

  2. greg

    It’s amazing what the word “sorry” can do. I used to think my two labrador retrievers knew three words: food, walk, ride. But I think they’ve got a handle on this fourth word, because I find myself using it a lot with them. I’ll tell them I’m sorry for not walking them during a thunderstorm. I love them, but love stops where stupidity begins. I actually think they’re beginning to see the wisdom of such a choice. This is what not having children does. One takes victory where one can find it.

  3. Athena

    My parents were never ones to apologize either when they went over the top, but I’ve changed that dynamic in our family. Parents lose it at times and overreact, and when that happens kids do deserve an honest, heart-felt apology. I hate that I lose it at times, but I feel really good about the fact I can acknowledge it (and quickly too!) and move on with some healing between the two people.

  4. Mark Lenz

    My apologies to our daughters started to really work when I realized that it wasn’t my job to be a perfect father. We certainly should strive to be the best parent we can be, but when I figured out that my REAL job was to introduce my daughters to their Heavenly father — who IS perfect — it took a lot of pressure off of me. Much easier and simpler to represent a perfect father than to try to be one.

  5. Jim

    It seems that you are teaching peacemaking, forgiveness and gentleness. We know if they learn these conflict resolution skills they will be better equipped for life & marriage. Our pre marriage counselor told us that he and his wife tried to resolve their conflict before their head hit the pillow. They may not resolve the issue right then, but they asked forgiveness for the conflict before bed. Bless you, you model and your family.

    For great peacemaking principles check out hispeace.org

    Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

  6. MMM

    he fell asleep in there, didn’t he? poor lamb.

    it was nice of you to apologize, though. even if he didn’t quite forgive you immediately.

  7. MarcV

    I wonder if giving him a swirlie would have cured him of “head in the bowl”? It’s tempting, but we must not exasperate our children.

    There are times when parents lose it and an apology is in order, a humbling but necessary course. There are times when my youngster’s behavior has called for stern disciplinary measures, and you find out it hurts you more than it hurts them. What overwhelms me is afterwards they still come to you for a hug, when you would expect them to hold a grudge or hate you for a time. I guess that may come in the teenage years.

  8. Jordana

    My hope has always been that if I am not as in control of my temper as I should be, I can at least always teach my children the value of the apology. I try to model kindness and patience for them. Sometimes, many times, I fail. I try always to apologize to them for those times. I pray they will remember those times more than the times when Mommy is the psychotic crazy lady, or at least that the “I’m sorry” always followed.

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