Submitted by Sarah Yanosy, Director of the Sanctuary Institute
Robert Fulgrum wrote “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” I am lucky enough to have a kindergartener myself this year, and she has taught me some profound lessons. One night this week, I was feeling particularly overloaded. With the battle of getting my son to take a shower ahead, I gave in to the following bribe: “We can have McDonald’s tonight if you take a shower without giving me a hard time.” He quickly agreed, and we picked up our food on the way home from the afterschool program. I know I have blown my chance of winning Mother of the Year. Hope persists for 2013. My daughter and I put the food out on the table while my son got in the shower, hollering “wait for me” as he turned on the water. I don’t remember agreeing, but I am quite clear now that my lack of response signaled tacit agreement to him. It was a very long shower. When he made his way to the dining room table, dripping water from his hair, he gasped in horror. “You started without me!” He flung himself into a living room chair and announced that he was not going to eat. I don’t think I was even aware that I had eaten them, but there was an incriminating empty box of fries in front of me. An equally incriminating and empty box stared up at my daughter, Sidra. “But it was just the French fries,” I replied indignantly. “Seriously? You are going to have a fit because I ate some French fries? You were in there forever! Your sister and I were sitting here waiting, and we just got hungry. Jonah, I don’t even know what to say to you right now.”
I was completely exasperated. And then came the voice of reason. Sid came up and whispered in my ear. “Mommy, I know what you could say. Just say sorry.” She was right. And that is just what I said. He came begrudgingly to the table, though I am still unclear if it was because of my heartfelt apology or the wafting sent of his own fries. I realized that my actions had meaning that I had not intended. They seemed so harmless to me, simply implying that I needed salt and grease to edge away the frustrations of the day. But to him, they meant something else: that I had not kept my word, that his company at the table wasn’t worth waiting for. Again, Olympic-style training for Mother of the Year will be required for any chance in 2013. The good news is that he is resilient and forgiving, and this really was a fairly minor infraction in the grand scheme of our relationship. But it was also a good reminder to me that “I’m sorry” goes a long way, and even kindergarteners know that.