After two weeks of "vacation rules," the babe was more than a little out of sorts. Spoils from grandparents and aunts and uncles, special treats, relaxed bedtimes, and LOTS of attention had taken its toll. During a conversation at the airport in which she was (however briefly) not the center of attention, she began to unravel. She wanted recognition. NOW.
She tried her hand at being polite, softly interjecting, "Excuse me, Mama. Excuse me, Grandmama." When niceties proved unsuccessful, she reminded us that she is, after all, two years old by dropping to the floor like a wet noodle.
I scooped her up and carried her to a quiet corner to discuss the situation. After a few deep breaths she offered, "I'm sorry, Mama," and we returned to the gate peacefully. The conversation between adults resumed, and not five minutes later, she was back at it. Again, I whisked her away. And again she apologized. But something in her gaze suggested this was simply the beginning of a much longer game. In an attempt to head off a third meltdown, I explained that saying sorry is not meaningful unless we also change our behavior.
As we boarded the plane, I was struck by the truth that no matter how many years we may have lived, at our core we are more similar to small children than we care to acknowledge We are irritable [read: cranky] when tired or hungry. We become anxious [read: scared] when faced with unfamiliar challenges. We grow frustrated [see: throwing oneself on the floor] when we can't control our environments. And we often say we are sorry with no thought beyond simply ending a confrontation, which allows us to escape a lesson and ultimately revert to familiar patterns.
Next time your behavior is challenged by a friend or loved one, pause and reflect on the situation. If an apology is in order, offer it sincerely, then make a plan to change your behavior. Don't just say it... Mean it.