What My Toddler Taught Me About Friendship and Forgiveness

What’d you learn in Sunday school today? I ask her. We’re in the entryway gathering shoes, stuffing a tote with bug spray, hats, sunglasses. We’re off to the pool.

I learned that when someone is sad, you don’t run away. You hug each other, she says, slipping on Crocs.

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That’s a great thing to learn, I say.

Mom! We forgot my ball! she says.

Last year, I grew sad. I let a small hurt grow into a big hurt, let a friendship snowball into something distant and unfamiliar.

We don’t hug each other much anymore, just every now and then.

I forgave my friend for the small hurt, but I didn’t forgive myself for the big one.

Forgiveness is capital H hard, isn’t it? You think you’ve got a handle on it, you think you’re ready to move on, to let it go, to forgive, perhaps even to forget, to maybe even start anew but then – boom – you’re on the path to reconciliation and find yourself spiraling into old patterns.

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There’s a dry erase board wall in my kitchen that has held hundreds of reminders over the past five years – oil change @ 10am! need eggs! make dentist appt! We’ve written and erased, written and erased, but the original picture still remains slightly intact, faded and permanent, the very first game of Hangman that had ever been played on the wall.

If you squint, you can read it ever so slightly, lines and letters permeating the wall from the heavy shorthand of our friends’ 4th grade daughter: C-A-N-W-E-C-O-M-E-B-A-C-K-T-O-V-I-S-I-T-S-O-O-N?

We’ve tried to erase it completely, but it’s been there forever. It was the first mark, and first marks have a way of lingering.

Clean slates are rarely spotless.

The pool water is cold, and Bee opts for the sandbox instead. I watch her dig and build, dig and build. She buries shells, buries leaves, buries Legos.

I bury things, too.

There are times I want to just shake the mean stuff right out of my head. There are times I want to forget what she said, what I said, what I did, what I didn’t do.

There are times I want to erase it away, and then there are times that I do erase it away, except that it resurfaces the next week in a forced interaction and a lump in my throat.

Clean slates are rarely spotless.

I don’t have a solution, not yet. I know what the right answers are, and I know they have something to do with letting these things sit for awhile, giving it time, trying really hard not to screw anything up further in the process. I know there is prayer and faith and grace, and I know that when you feel like the whole of it isn’t working, it probably is.

And I know what Bee learned today. When someone is sad, you don’t run away. You hug each other.

The sun is lower now, and a swim sounds nice. Want to join me? I ask Bee. She’s still digging, still sandy, still in exploration mode.

In a long while, Mom, she says.

That’s precisely what it will take, a long while. To learn and re-learn, to not run away, to stop recoiling from past hurt but instead, to allow a hug.

To offer one, too.

Dry erase boards are never clean, never fully erased, never spotless.

Sand is never without grit.

But all fades. All softens. Over time – In a long while, Mom – if we choose to use our hands to write something new, rather than our feet to run away.

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Follow Erin on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/erinloechner/.


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Erin Loechner
Author of Chasing Slow and founder of Design for Mankind, Erin Loechner has been blogging and speaking for more than a decade. Her heartfelt writing and design work has been showcased in The New York Times, Lucky, Parenting, Dwell, Marie Claire, Elle Decor, Huffington Post, and a two-season HGTV.com web special, garnering over one million fans worldwide. She has spoken for and appeared in renowned international events for clients such as Walt Disney World, IKEA, Martha Stewart and Home Depot. Now nestled in a Midwestern town, Erin, her husband, and their toddler strive for less in most areas except three: joy, grace, and goat cheese.