What We Say When We Say Sorry


A scream follows a thud. Then the crying comes. I step into the room and observe today’s carnage. I sport three titles today, as parents do the world over – criminal investigator, referee and arse-kicking prosecutor with washing-up gloves on.

One kid – Kid B – is flat on the floor, whimpering. Kid A is standing over her, hands in the air. “It’s not my fault” has been expressed by both parties at different volumes. I try to sieve through the bogey-nosed protests and get some concrete evidence so I can dish out some yellow cards.

“So you pushed her over…” I say to Kid A. “Do you confirm?”

“And why did you resort to this specific gesture?”

“Cause she bit me.” (Kid A)

“Is it true that you bit him?”

“And why did you perform such a cannibalistic act?”

“He took my toy.” (Kid B)

“It wasn’t your toy, it was mine.” (Kid A)

“But were you actually playing with it?”

“No, but it’s mine, and I don’t want her touching it. She touches all my stuff. Always.” (Kid A)

I look down at the toy in question, expecting to see an X-Wing or a lightsaber. It’s a red rubber band. A red rubber band.

At this point I suck back a sigh and manage to squeeze in that time-old gem that sharing is important between siblings, within a family unit – however misshapen – as much as it is vital in our contemporary society of unfettered capitalism. Despite the stares, I continue the investigation to uncover the truth and to see some I’m sorrys fly around. A few minutes on, I get to the bottom of it. Just before the bit where they both forget entirely how it all started.

They’re facing each other now. Kid A, three heads higher than Kid B, has said that his sister can play with his red rubber band for 5 minutes per day, tops, and that if his sister bites him again, he’ll call me instead of flooring her. Kid B, three heads lower has nodded three times. First at the biting part, because humans don’t bite other humans. She’s also nodded at the idea of playing more with her own toys and not always stealing her brother’s. She’s nodded a…

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