When I was in my early teens, maybe even earlier, my best friend Jonny and I had a huge argument. I can’t really remember why: something about his brother falling over, or being tripped up, or something. Anyway, I went in a strop with him, he went in a strop with me, and our mutual mood lasted for days.
One day, fed up with the situation, my mother ordered me to ring Jonny and apologise. I remember it vividly; tapping the numbers into the home phone (remember those?), listening to the rings, waiting for his mum to pick up so I could ask to speak to him. I was nervous, so much so that my fingers quivered and my daft centre parting vibrated gently.
But I apologised, and we were friends again, and the next day at school we were both so freaking excited to be mates again that we ran around like idiots.
Today I arrived at my in-laws’ house to pick up my children, as my wife was working. I got there to find that Isaac had decided to pick up a can of ant spray and unload it everywhere like some kind of awful-smelling deodorant. Quite rightly, he was being told off, and he stood there looking repentant but also a bit stroppy, because he’s six now which means he behaves like a teenager.
On my way home, with Isaac slumped on the back seat, arms folded and chin buried into his chest, I realised that he hadn’t apologised to his grandma. I was faced with a parenting conundrum – I could either:
a) Accept that Isaac was reluctantly repentant and carry on about my bid-ness;
b) Make Isaac ring my mother-in-law to apologise, which would result in him feeling as awful as I did all those years ago, and probably crying;
c) Sing One Direction really loudly to wind him and his brother up.
I did the last one, obviously. That was always going to happen. But the other decision was harder to make. Eventually, I decided on b). It was the right thing to do, and – despite how awful it would make him feel – he needs to learn the importance of saying sorry.
Once inside the house, I explain what’s going to happen: I’m going to ring grandma, and he’s going to apologise. You can tell already that he’s got that horrible feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach; his face is drained of colour and his eyes are going super-shiny. As the phone rings his lips purse, holding back sobs.
“Hi, it’s me. Isaac has something to say.”
I put the phone to his ear and he lets out a squeaky apology and a few choked sobs. As I say goodbye and hang up he starts crying, so I give him a hug and tell him that I’m proud of him for doing the right thing, and that he’ll feel better now.
“I don’t – feel – better…” he gulps and cries.
“It’ll happen eventually.”
And it did. Not only was I proud of him for being brave enough to apologise, I’m a little smug myself for choosing a more difficult option in order to teach my son about the art of saying sorry. And also, for hitting the high notes perfectly whilst singing that One Direction song.