I don’t really remember what I was trying to work on. I remember that I was yelling.
“Ithilien! ITHILIEN! STOP! YOU ARE BREAKING IT!”
I snatched the plastic unicorn out of my 4-year-old’s hand and knelt down to bring us face-to-face.
“Ithilien! You broke my table! Why would you do that?”
Of course he didn’t know. I know, because he’s four, that probably what happened was that he was fascinated by the deep pockmarks the unicorn’s horn left in the wood as he banged it down again and again on the surface of my studio cutting table. He had tried it the first time to see what would happen, and the second time to see if it would happen again, and before he knew it there were 11 deep, short scratches in the table surface and I was yelling at him.
He made the grinch face. You know, the one where his upper lip goes V-shaped over his sucked-in lower lip. His eyes filled with tears.
“You scared me, Mommy!”
Why would you do that?
We’re still a few years from him articulating the second question for himself, but I have an active imagination.
I held him close in a hug.
“Oh honey, I know. I’m sorry I yelled. I should have been gentle and kind with my voice.”
We looked at the table and at the unicorn’s horn, now scraped clear of painted finish. I explained that I need the table for working on, and that I want him to respect my things. We talked about how sometimes people yell because they are angry or to get somebody’s attention if people or things are in danger, but it’s better to use a gentle and kind voice to talk to somebody, especially somebody you love.
And then I got down the jar of walnuts and we rubbed one into the scratches. We talked about how most things can be fixed, but when you fix things they’re never really the same as they were before– that’s one of the Big Lessons we try to instill in our children from birth.
I asked his forgiveness for scaring him by yelling when I could have used a gentle voice. I said his name with love and care, the way he deserves.
And I’m trying to have faith that he meant it when he said he forgave me, but I know that nothing is quite the same after you fix it as it was before it was broken. Just like my table, with its now nearly-imperceptible unicorn-horn scratches.
We are all learning. To be better, kinder people. To think before we act. And making mistakes is part of learning.
What matters is that we learn from mistakes and practice becoming the way we want to be. What matters is that we know that walnut oil is a great fix for scratched tables, and a hug and an apology goes a long way to setting a relationship back on track.
Because most things can be fixed. You just have to want to fix it and to know how to begin.
Amazing grace, indeed.