“If you have to say ‘I’m sorry’ it’s too late.”
No way could I wrap my five year-old mind around that one.
“But I AM sorry!”
“Then you shouldn’t have done it.”
I remember going to my room (going; I was not sent) and trying to figure that out. I couldn’t. I was five. He was three. He was annoying. He took crayons out of my hands when I was using them. Of COURSE I hit him and of COURSE he cried and of COURSE I was sorry. I loved him. I didn’t want to make him cry but he had no RIGHT to take a crayon out of my hand when there were 7 other colors and he didn’t color, anyway. He just drew.
When I emerged from my room, I went to my dad and said, “Why is it too late to say I’m sorry?”
My dad — who had a different take on it than my mom, but basically supported her philosophical position on regret — said. “‘Sorry’ is when you hurt someone by accident, not when you haul off and hit them on purpose. If you hit your little brother it will hurt him and he will cry. You know this. You can choose not to hit him, or you can choose to hit him and hurt him. Why did you hit him?”
“He took my crayon.”
“Ah,” said my dad, knowing, I’m sure, that my brother had taken the red one. “Couldn’t you use another one?”
“I was USING that one.”
It wasn’t long before there were two crayon boxes, but anyone who’s had little kids KNOWS that doesn’t work, either. There came a moment during a crayon storm when my brother hit me in the head with a crayon thrown from across the room. He didn’t say he was sorry. There was another time when he trampled on all the crayons leaving a broken mess of colors on my drawing and on the floor. He didn’t say he was sorry. It wasn’t about the crayons at all, for Kirk. It was about getting my attention.