Jeffrey positions himself with his nose inches away from his buddy’s. “I’m sorry Rowen. I’m sorry Rowen. I’m sorry Rowen. I’m sorry Rowen. I’m sorry Rowen.”
“Humph!” declares Rowen, lower lip out, chin up, eyes narrowed. Rowen actually says things like “Humph!” and “Rats!” and “Good Grief!” because he identifies with Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh and also Charlie Brown.
“Rowen,” I begin, “Jeffrey didn’t mean to hurt you when he tagged you. He’s trying to do the right thing by saying sorry. Here comes his mom’s car. He has to leave in a moment. Can you do the right thing, too?”
Rowen starts wailing and, to borrow a term from one of his favorite authors, Mo Willems, “goes boneless”.
Jeffrey’s mom approaches and greets us. “Hi guys, how was soccer practice?”
“Good Mom, I won in Knock Out!”
Rowen lets out a scream that echoes in the space between the house and the garage. I bring Jeffrey’s Mom up to speed.
“Rowen,” I attempt once more, “Let’s try to end on a good note. This is your chance to forgive Jeffrey. He is leaving now. Do you think you might feel worse if he leaves before you get a chance to tell him it’s okay?”
Rowen never does well with a looming deadline. He falls completely to pieces. Jeffrey and his Mom offer a wave and then their car pulls away.
I try to coax Rowen into the house but he is not done with his antics so, patience exhausted, I walk in without him. I throw my bag on the chair. I am embarrassed. Why couldn’t he just go through the socially appropriate motions? Why does there always have to be drama?
Eventually he comes in, has a drink, dinner, and a warm bath. He pulls on his dinosaur PJs and we read stories. As I tuck him in, I ask if he’s forgiven his friend. He sighs and says, “Well, ok,” and it’s finished. He’ll see Jeffrey in school the next day and they’ll talk about soccer and all will be well.
Forgiveness among children is rarely rushed yet comes quickly and wholeheartedly. Purification is the first step, a physical release of the sadness, anger and fear, and then, quite simply, hurt is healed. The sun sets upon the day and sleep sweeps out the trouble. The next day is met with Love.
Why can’t the Process be this simple for grown-ups? Why do we fall into the Cycle of second-rate apologies and false Forgiveness, or worse, utter silence? Children remind us that emotional energy needs a release, no exceptions. While it may not always be pretty, it is truly the way to remain in Right Relationship with those around us.