This morning Persephone smacked me on the chest as I was carrying her into her bedroom to get dressed. I don’t remember why. She is so tiny I don’t think she could hurt me even if she hit me with all her strength. So in some ways it was no big deal, but I decided to make it into a big deal. Not at first, actually. First, I asked her for an apology. I asked her repeatedly. But she refused. I told her she’d have a time out if she didn’t apologize. Still she wouldn’t say it. So then we proceeded to have the longest damn time out we’ve ever had. It was not easy for either of us. I told her that she’d have to sit there until she apologized, and for her part she fussed and cried but mostly just sat there in silence. It seemed to me that our conflict had become an absurd contest of wills, a mere power struggle divorced from any notions of right and wrong. I kept explaining and re-explaining that if you hit someone you should apologize. And despite my misgivings I’m pretty sure Persephone understood exactly what this was all about. At one point, when I’d reiterated for the thousandth time that she could end this absurd standoff by saying sorry, she whined, “But that’s not truuuue.” She knew what I wanted but she did not want to give in. She stuck to her guns. I admire that. And of course I was feeling the pressure to get ready for school and work, and she was not, but I stuck to my guns too. I was seriously considering the expediency of spanking, but I stuck to my guns. And finally I won. Er, um, wait, no, this wasn’t about winning and losing. I mean finally my daughter saw the error of her ways and embraced right behavior. “I’m sorry.” Was that so hard? Apparently so. It sure took a while to get there. I’m not sure how long it was. Twenty, twenty-five minutes, I guess. Afterward I was wondering if this was a sick and pointless exercise in dominance and submission. But a subsequent incident makes me think it may have been worthwhile. She took an old doll down to the breakfast table. She noticed it had a hole in its chest. I almost dropped the granola when I heard her say “I’m sorry” to the doll. “I’m sorry I made the hole in your chest.” So maybe she did learn something after all.