“She was telling the truth”: When you owe your three-year-old an apology

Posted in Behaviour and Discipline.

It’s not often that you find yourself having to apologise to your child. From time to time, you might have to say sorry for little things, like forgetting to buy a new packet of sultanas or not keeping the cereal box for a craft project. Things that aren’t so important and easily forgiven. However, when I found pen ink all over my expensive coat, and my three-year-old said she didn’t do it, I wasn’t so quick to believe her. As it happened, it wasn’t her fault and she was telling the truth. Which meant that I owed her one very big apology.

What have you done?

When I became a mum, I no longer had the time (nor the need) for an extensive wardrobe. However, I do have one item that is particularly special – a beautiful classic camel-coloured trench coat, a present from my husband, which instantly glamorises everything in my wardrobe. However, one day I slipped it on and to my horror, there was ballpoint pen scribbling on one side, at mid-thigh level. I was devastated. My beautiful coat was ruined.

It’s only natural that I turned to my three-year-old daughter to see if she knew anything about it. She said that she didn’t do it. “Really? Are you sure?” I asked again. “Sorry, Mummy,” she replied. “So, you did do it?” I said. “No, Mummy.”

What was I to think? Even my other daughter, who is nearly four years older than her sister, thought it looked like the drawing of a three-year-old. So, I gave her my usual talk about how much better it is to tell the truth. And if she did do it, she won’t get into trouble. As long as she tells the truth. Honesty is the best policy.

By now the poor child was completely confused about what we were even talking about. I let it go and found an excellent dry cleaner who removed the scribbles. All was well, and although we didn’t know exactly what happened, I felt like I had a pretty good (three-year-old) idea.

The truth comes out

A couple of weeks later, I was pulling on my jeans, when suddenly I froze. There was the same ballpoint pen scribbling that had appeared on my coat. In the exact same mid-thigh location. What was going on? This was too much of a coincidence and while my daughter was good at drawing, I doubted whether she could match the exact position on another item of clothing.

After further investigation, I finally got to the bottom of the situation. I noticed a hole in the bottom corner of my handbag. And I only noticed because a pen was poking out. Right at mid-thigh level.

The apology

I immediately saw my error. As I had swung my bag around, the pen scribbled on whatever I was wearing. How could I have suspected my daughter when she told me that she didn’t do it? Why did I assume there were no other options, other than a cheeky three-year-old with a penchant for mischief? Later that day, I sat her down and explained what happened to Mummy’s coat and that I was very sorry for thinking she might have done it. She had told the truth, which was excellent, and I was very sorry for not believing her 100 percent.

We still talk about that incident. She brings it up every now and then. And I re-apologise every time. I should have known better, especially as I’m bringing up my girls to always tell the truth. I should have had faith that it’s actually sinking in. But after slipping up that one time, I will have to believe whatever she says from now on in. Let’s just hope it’s the truth.


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