“Sorry, Mommy,” he offers.
“I know, baby, but you have a two-minute time-out.”
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” he tries again. But he is not. He is not sorry the way I am sorry. If he were sorry like a grown-up, he wouldn’t do it again. If he meant the word the way I mean the word, he would never again spit or bite or push.
But, of course, he is two, and two-year-olds only understand that they are sorry they got into trouble. Hopefully, the word will be followed by the emotion, but it will most likely be years before he feels any real compunction.
I, on the other hand, am careful with my apologies. I only make them if I mean them, if I will try to never again repeat the action. That is why I never apologized to certain members of my family. I was sorry they were hurt, but I couldn’t promise that I would never again voice the truth. I was not sorry like an adult, and I refused to apologize like a two-year-old.
I think of this now as I write my Yom Kippur post (writing it on Yom Kippur to post next week because I am just a little behind these days). On Yom Kippur, we are meant to repent our sins, yet this year all I feel is gratitude for how much happier we are this year than last. We are not in London anymore, we have a new and unplanned member of the family, and I feel like I have begun to hit my stride as a writer (although not as a published writer). I even feel gratitude for the things that frustrated me last year, such as the chance to live in London for two years.
But, because I am an obedient Jew, I am trying to muster up some sense of repentance. I could be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, I suppose, but that would require a fundamental personality shift, so it’s hard to be too remorseful about those things. I could give more to my community, for certain, but it isn’t going to happen when I would need to hire childcare just to volunteer. It will need to wait a year or two.
These are not excuses. A year or two ago, they would have been. But now I have come to a place where I give as much as I can and then forgive myself the remainder. In return, I am growing and actually able to give more. And, so, on this Day of Atonement, I find myself stronger and better than I have ever found myself before. Instead of Atoning this year, I instead ask myself to keep on growing and learning and appreciating.
And next year in Jerusalem – next year may all live in peace.