Sunday, January 25, 2009

The beginning of guilt

Tonight we got our first glimpse of what guilt looks like on a 2-year-old's face. It's been hard to tell whether Jim and I are getting through to Danny. Our disappointment or anger at his behavior doesn't seem to phase him. But as Jim was putting the finishing touches on our new booth cushions for our breakfast nook and Danny was eating dinner, it finally happened.

Danny was flailing about as usual at the dinner table. In the process, his tomato-sauce covered hands wound up on newly upholstered, but not yet Scotch Guarded, cushions. (I'll post some photos soon of our latest dollar renovation.) Our reaction was more to the tomato sauce on the new fabric than to him. We must have had really stricken looks on our face. He just stared at us somberly as we told him calmly, but in a very disappointed tone, not to touch the cushions with dirty hands. He started repeating slowly, "don't touch, dirty hands." Then he burst into tears. Jim got this incredulous, happy look on his face and said, "This is good." It is, of course, good to see him react to our disappointment. We don't want him to feel excessively guilty, but we do want him to want to behave, to know that he's done something wrong, something he should avoid doing in the future. Maybe he'll really remember not to put his dirty hands all over the furniture. Maybe he'll also start remembering to not throw toys, scream inside or flail about at the table.

But I nearly started crying myself as this little drama unfolded (partly because I'm pregnant, three days overdue and extremely hormonal). I felt a little bad for Danny. It was the first time that I've seen him learn a lesson and experience feelings of guilt. Jim went over and asked him if he needed a hug, which he did. Then Danny sat on my lap and let me feed him the rest of his dinner. All was right with the world again.

And here's a closeup of the latest fat lip:

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