Like many other parents of toddlers, I spend a lot of time teaching my 3-year-old daughter to apologize. She is taught to apologize when she doesn’t listen, or when she doesn’t cooperate, or when she is screaming for no reason, or when she wakes her little sister. I’ve put her in time out and made her apologize for spitting, for hitting, for pushing her sister, for refusing to share, for refusing to brush her teeth, for refusing to use the potty, and for refusing to take a bath.
My wife and I spend a lot of time discussing the things our eldest daughter does wrong and we try to make sure she understands how she has erred and explain to her how to behave properly the next time a similar conflict arises. “Use your words,” we often tell her. “Share your toys,” “be cooperative,” and “be gentle” are other common pieces of advice she receives. And we hope that this process has an impact.
So, what I am saying is that, for a toddler, every day is Yom Kippur.
Toddlers sin daily by, among other things, not respecting their parents, failing to treat others well, by being concerned only with themselves, by being stubborn, and by being deceitful. And, they are taught to repent and ask forgiveness for their actions each day and are pressed by their parents not to commit that same sin in the future. For all intents and purposes, at the end of a day, a toddler’s slate has been wiped clean and they can begin the next day purified.
But, as much as we may overlook it, parents sin, too. And, more specifically, we commit wrongs towards our children for which we do not always repent. So, in the spirit of this upcoming High Holy Day, I will do so now.
Little one: I am sorry for each time that I have yelled at you over this past year. Whether it was in frustration or anger, whether it felt justified, and whether I did so without thinking, I ask your forgiveness for yelling.
I am sorry for not always being present, and I ask your forgiveness. Here, I include all the time I’ve spent away from you at work or doing professional activities, even while I knew you wanted my time and attention. I also include my failure to better explain to you why and when I have to go to work. And, I am especially sorry for all the times I have not been present even when I am physically mere inches away from you. By this I mean I am sorry for being more connected to my iPhone at times than to you.
I am sorry for being stubborn. I am sorry for not letting things go. I am sorry for being quick to anger. I am sorry for not being more patient. I am sorry for not giving you more chances. I am sorry for expecting too much from you too soon. I am sorry for things I may have done or said that affected you without my realizing it. I am sorry for the ways I may have hurt you intentionally or unintentionally. And, again, I ask your forgiveness.
I am most sorry for not asking for your forgiveness for all these things and more in a timely fashion, as I would expect you to do.
So, with the hope that my slate will be wiped clean for this year, I am also hereby vowing to teach myself what I am trying to teach you. I will think about how my actions affect you and about how you may feel in a given situation. I will be calmer, more patient, and more present in your life. And, I will both ask for forgiveness when I have wronged you and forgive you when you have wronged.
In summary, I am acknowledging that both I and my daughter have committed wrongs. I hope we can forgive each other. And, I pray that we are both pardoned.