When does sorry mean sorry?

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Ever notice how some people can make sorry sound like shut up?

My little one fits into that category. For starters, I'm not sure he comprehends the meaning of an apology. Come to think of it, he most likely has a basic understanding, but still chooses to use sorry as a “get out of jail free” card.

The other day, he was in a particularly impish mood, and boy was he being a nuisance.

One minute, he was turning the toy box I'd just packed upside down (lots of little toys, to wit) and then he was suddenly too tired to clean up.

As an aside, it's not like he can't clean or has an aversion to tidying up. Just yesterday when I picked him up from school, I watched as he packed away his puzzle and rolled up his mat. And the telltale sign that it wasn't a dreaded chore was borne out by the fact he was singing, while he was working.

Now why can't I get him to do that? (Seriously, don't answer; we might have a falling out).

Anyhow, my scolding on that day of nuisance was met with a demure "sorry, Mommy," and it worked.

But, a few minutes later, when he was spitting mouthfuls of red fruit punch on his brother clad in a white T-shirt, my pity metre was broken.

Another aside, be careful what you buy. I got what I thought was a deal on fruit punch the other day, but when the kids had stains on their faces, a la the Joker from Batman, and I had to scrub really hard to get the spills off the counter top, it was time to read the ingredients. And, yes, this was the same juice the little mister was swilling and spitting on his brother.

So he kept saying sorry and I kept scolding, and that's when he offered – make that shouted – sorry, and I couldn't help but notice that it sounded like shut up already.

So there I was, trying to explain to a three-year-old, the proper uses of sorry, when he got frustrated and blustered out "sorry can't cool hot water."

Now, I think that should have been my line, because he was the one who was doing as he pleased and then expecting sorry to make it right.

Which makes me wonder, can you tell a kid you don't accept his apology? Will he recall that moment years later, as he is lying on a therapist's couch explaining why he has trust issues with women?

I hear the “chups” from some old-stagers now. But they're from the era of children should be seen and not heard, so I won't hold it against them.

Speaking of holding things against people, I know it's the season of giving. I also know that folks get stumped on what gifts to give to children.

Please bear these things in mind: if you're going to present a battery-operated toy, then for goodness' sake, buy the batteries. Surely, you don't expect parents to have the eight C batteries and one nine volt it will take to make the thing work for 20 minutes, in the cupboard.

Know ye this as well, when you give live gifts, it's like punishment for parents. They are the ones, for the most part, who end up caring for these things. And they certainly are the ones who have to buy the feed and clean the poop. And then when the little things die, the parents are the ones who have to work through the trauma.

My boys saw some rabbits on a trip up Market Street recently, and they started getting ideas. I also got an idea when I heard the excitement. It went like this: note to self, never take Market Street when the kids are in the vehicle.

Anyway, I'm in the minority of parents who don't mind noisy toys. It can clan, bang, whiz or whir, it usually doesn't bother me.

But what boils my noodle, as a favourite sister-girl would say, are the gifts that force me to take a tutorial to explain it to the owners. Delight them, but don't monopolise my time.

If I've offended anyone who's won't to talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth, in the spirit of my little one, sorry!  

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