It was an accident.

Still, in a bout of silliness, my little man threw his head back with quite a force and hit my chin.   And then he giggled.

It’s hard when your child hurts you, accidental or otherwise, to deal with the physical and emotional response in a proper way.  (I often find myself wishing for a pause button so I can rant and grumble a few non-toddler approved words or reactions without an audience.)

With my best effort at composure, I took a deep breath and swallowed the physical pain.

“Ouch, sweetie.  We hit heads and mommy got an owie.  You need to be careful.  And when we hurt someone, we need to say sorry.  Now, how about a hug and an apology?”

Three little words.  I’m sorry, Mommy.

I knew it as soon as I said it.  This would not be a simple interaction.  We’d been working on the whole, “I’m sorry,” thing for some time.  And, as evidenced by his recent refusals to apologize to his twin brother, for anything – ever – we still had work to do.  I thought maybe we best tackle this head on.  And we did.

I don’t know who was more emotionally exhausted by the episode, him – from crying and hollering in his crib for repeated 5 minute jags – or me – from standing outside his door silently pleading with him to just say those three little words.

I’m sorry, Mommy.

But the apology didn’t come.  Each time I went into his room to tell him as calmly as I could muster that 1.) I loved him, and 2.) accidents happen, and still 3.) he needed to say “I’m sorry, Mommy,” it didn’t come.  Time after time, his initial smile at the sight of me entering his room turned again and again to tears as he realized there was no other way to finagle out of this situation.  No other ticket out the door.  Except the apology.

I’m sorry, Mommy.

I was beginning to wonder if I’d done more harm than good with this attempt at a lesson.  Yes, I believe in consistency.  Yes, I’ve seen the positive outcome when we stick to our behavior plan.  And, yes, I knew where this was going.  But in the midst of the tears, as my patience began to wane, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if?

If we never got to the finale, if he never apologized, if I never got to scoop him up in my arms and lavish him with my forgiveness (which he already had all along), what then?

But then, finally, it happened.

My sowwy,  Mommy.

Praise God.

The relief was tangible.  What I could not fully explain to my two-year-old – what he had to experience for himself – I could finally show him.  A hug.  A single kiss upon his salty cheek.  And a silent tear down my own.

A moment of grace as he enveloped me, his head one with my shoulder.

You are forgiven, my child.  

How quickly the moment passed, though it resonates still.  I can still feel his arms around me in that moment.  Like those lines of laughter and worry beginning now to don my face, the impact of the experience will forever mark me.

My sweet boy apologizes with ease now.  To his twin brother, to me, to the dog.  Maybe we have this battle of wills to thank, maybe that sweet moment of grace, or perhaps, as so often is the case with toddlers, our repeated efforts simply paid off.  No matter, my heart swells when he says those three little words.

I’m sorry, Mommy.

You are forgiven, child.  Always.


Essay also seen on Another Voice. and Mamapedia.


  1. I needed to read this one Holli. God has blessed me with one twin daughter who sounds just like your little man. So far I sometimes cave in without always getting the much deserved apology. I think I need to work on more grace and patience to out-wait her

    • Two things I am always working on as well. The patience tank can get so low and hard to replenish in this phase. Wishing you well with your little one(s), too.

  2. I can relate so much to your story. We have four 2 year-olds and sometimes it is quite a challenge to get to that happy ending (but well worth it). You did a great job capturing your feelings in the situation. It is so hard to follow through sometimes when your little one really tests the limits.

    : 0 ) Theresa (Capri + 3)

  3. Hi Holli,
    As a mother of 6 children from 21 down to 7, I want to encourage you that the battles today pay off hugely later. I can see areas where I should have continued in the battles and not given up, but I can also see the sweet fruit where we persevered. The temporary tears today will reap great joy tomorrow. Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed your post.
    I’m blogging over at

    • Thank you so much for that. I so appreciate the encouragement. I do already see some fruits from this labor, as you said, so we are thankful for that as well.

  4. Hi,
    Stopping by to say thanks for linking up to Faithful Friday. Oh how I remember those battles for “sorry” and the pain that comes with consistency. Thanks for the reminder that hanging in their does pay off in our parenting,

  5. Dear Holli
    I think this is a moment that will forever lives in your heart!! Precious. I can just I imagine the battle that raged in your heart.
    Luv XX

  6. AMAZING. every bit.

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