This evening just before bed #2 looked at me and said:
“Daddy, I’m sad because I think I ruined everybody’s day when I knocked over my drink. Mom looked so mad.”
It broke my heart. Yes, #2 had knocked over a cup full of juice. Yes, it had spilled across the table and ran off onto the chair and floor. Yes, Mother jumped up and barked at #2. Yes, as I tossed my napkin on the every widening spill I grumbled something like, “#2! You’ve got to be more careful.” But, as I tried to reassure #2, no little mishap like a spilled drink is going to ruin anybody’s day.
The next few minutes were incredibly difficult, trying to explain to a little person the difference between being upset about something and being upset at somebody. We can be upset that you did something, and we can scold you for it, without being upset at you. I am not sure I conveyed the distinction and won’t blame #2 for failing to understand it. Most adults confuse the two—trying to explain it was a useful exercise for me.
I’m sure we’ll revisit this issue again, probably more than once.