It’s certainly a skill to master: writing a letter of apology. If you can’t offer up your amends face to face the next option is a heartfelt note. I’ve been teaching W how to say sorry for as long as he has been able to communicate. He has had to offer many apologies on the playground, many apologies to his Lolly, many to me. He has also heard apologies from his friends and family.
We apologize when we do something wrong, when we upset someone, when we hurt someone. We apologize even if someone says it is not necessary, because the point of the apology is acknowledgment. I never want W to feel shamed into apologizing so I try to approach apologies as opportunities. W is a great kid. I tell him he is a great kid every day. If he’s done something that may warrant an apology I try to frame it so that he sees he simply made a bad choice. An apology is a chance to take back that choice and try to make it better.
His love of Darth Vader has helped him understand good people making bad choices. Whenever he watches Star Wars he will remark on the choices Darth makes as good or bad but we don’t say Darth is a bad person.
Last Friday W brought home a small toy from his classroom. He eventually told me he brought it home so that he could show me that he liked the toy and he would like to have something like it at home. (I couldn’t even figure out what the object was. Possibly a part of a k’nex?) If we were still at school I would have had him immediately return the toy and apologize to his teacher, but it was well after school hours. I told W he would need to return the toy on monday and he would need to write an apology letter.
The entire weekend the task of writing this letter hung heavy in the air. W did NOT want to do it, he was furious about it. Sunday we spent a ridiculous amount of time talking about what he could say in his letter. (obviously keeping it brief because writing letters is still an arduous task for him) He told me what he felt ok saying and I wrote it down. It was decidedly unfluffy and very direct. He then sat down with Lolly and wrote out the letter. Because he did not want to sit down with me. Because at this point I was the worst mother ever.
I really, really wanted to let the letter writing go. But I needed W to know not only was his action not ok, but that there was a way to try to make it right. It was beyond painful for all of us.
This morning W hand delivered the letter to his teacher and he stood next to her quietly as she read it. I think he was worried she was going to fuss at him. Instead she gave him a hug and said she was really proud of him. She also told him to talk to her next time he was excited about a toy and wanted to show it to me.
W turned and coyly gave me a thumbs up sign and a smile and I was so relieved. We did it!