An apology is a good way to have the last word.
~Author Unknown

I’ve long struggled with how to handle conflict between Rhema and Hope. When an offense has been committed, I’ve often observed other parents go through the make-up routine, facing the children to each other and prompting one or both to say sorry and/or even give a hug.

This little drill works somewhat in our house. When Hope is in the wrong, she is corrected and prompted to tell Rhema she’s sorry. In earnest remorse, Hope will say, “I’m sorry, Rhema” to… the air. Rhema is usually long gone. Or her back is turned or she’s engrossed in a new activity. She does not seem to hear, want, understand or care for Hope’s apology.

Rhema’s offenses against Hope stack high by the end of the day. She swipes toys and food. She breaks Strawberry Shortcake’s head off. She rips Hope’s prized artwork to shreds. She colors in Hope’s books. She unintentionally crashes into Hope and knocks her down as she sprints about the house in a continuous loop.

Rhema does not often seem to “get” that she’s hurt her sister, and while Hope has often tried to hug Rhema, Rhema has never hugged Hope. I have tried to get Rhema to give Hope a high-five (in replacement of the make-up hug), but this is usually far from smooth. I have often wiped Hope’s tears and said, “Rhema’s sorry, honey. She’s sorry. She just can’t always show you.”

After Christmas, the girls were playing and Rhema somehow slammed the lid of a toy onto Hope’s finger. It was unintentional, but Hope seemed deeply hurt and cried hard. I stooped to her and tried to comfort her, but she was dramatic and distraught. I grabbed Rhema with one hand as she ran by.

“Rhema, you really hurt Hope’s finger. You have to be careful.” I said, thinking I’d used way too many words.

I looked at Hope. I sensed that for once she just really needed Rhema to acknowledge her, to look at her and see her tears.

Rhema tried to squirm out of my grasp, and then she threw her head back and burst into laughter. The harder Hope cried, the harder Rhema laughed, her body shaking with it.

Uh oh.

“Um. Rhema, say sorry to Hope… Say sorry.”

Until this point, I had never tried to get Rhema to say sorry. Never. I was simply sure she could not do it. Perhaps reading the “sorry stories” of blogfriends emboldened me. And the crying and laughing had escalated to such a degree in the house that I thought, hey, what the heck.

“Rhema. Say sorry.”

Rhema stopped giggling.

The heavens opened and the stars aligned and Hope and I nearly fainted when Rhema said, plain as day,

Saw. Eeee.”

And then she bolted.

Even Hope’s tears were in shock because they stopped dead in their tracks on her cheeks. As we stared, a wide grin popped out on her face.

“She said sorry!”
“She said sorry!”
“Rhema’s sorry!”

We danced around the living room, saying it over and over.

25 thoughts on “Sorry

  1. sometimes we just know when our kids are ready to do something – you knew.

    you knew when to push and how to push and there it was – exactly when it was needed most.

    and the laughing at tears? ugh. kendall does that too – this quasi maniacal laugh that sends her sister right over the edge.

  2. Wow! Rhema said sorry! I’m so glad that Hope got to hear that and realize its significance. It’s the little (HUGE to us) things that get you through the day, no?

    I’m with Jess. I think that sometimes kids are somehow unable to deal with each others’ tears. Foster runs away when someone cries, but it’s not out of guilt – he just can’t seem to process it. The kids all want him to stop and say he’s sorry, and even though he’s willing to say it, getting him to come to the person who deserves the apology has become almost impossible. I can’t carry him anymore, and when he sandbags, I’m totally useless.


  3. As I am sure you know, that was very “typical” of Rhema to laugh — people on the spectrum are often prone to (what we consider to be inappropriate) laughter in response to strong emotions.

    But the “Sorry”? Way, way extraordinary. Wow.

  4. Yea!! My therapist gave me holly heck about making my son apologize to his sister. I took 3,000 “sorries” but he eventually understood !!

  5. Hooray! You three are so precious. That must have been such an exhilarating moment.

    Even though our kids often have confusing responses to intense emotion I take some comfort in knowing that they are responding, and maybe even recognizing what the other person is feeling, but they can’t find, or don’t know the right response.

  6. Can see from here how much Rhema’s words meant to Hope.

    A big step for Rhema to get those words out (hooray!) and much needed for Hope to hear them. (hooray for all of you).

  7. Oh, wow! How incredibly awesome! It’s amazing how a “simple” sorry can mean SO much! Hurray! 🙂

    We have had that same struggle here with Christian acknowledging Olivia when he is the offender. We don’t often hear, “sorry,” but when we do it’s like a little miracle every time.

  8. How many times have I had a similar reluctance to offer my “sorry’s”?

    A good moment between sisters. It’s been a long season since I lived under the same roof as my older sister. In many ways, I’m still waiting for an apology I never got from her for a great many things. And she meant every offense given…

    Well, now I’m in a cheery mood.


  9. So I’m crying again. That is awesome!!!! How amazing for Hope to HEAR and EXPERIENCE that her sister loves her and hears her; to feel a sisterly connection, even if a brief moment.
    Sooooo wonderful! Praise God for His little mercies that brighten our lives.
    Go Rhema!!! Let the words flow!
    And Go Neily!!! I’m dancing with you and Brandon I’m sure.

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