We had a teaching moment today. Joey has been running out of doors, and today he managed to unlock Grandma's door and run outside. Fortunately, Grandma lives in the middle of nowhere, but in the house I grew up in, so he couldn't get too lost, even if he ran REALLY FAST- but he just wanted to go open and close the car doors. While he was wandering about, though, he managed to pull on Grandma's calla lily, and break it off. I found him slamming a car door with the stalk in his hand.
I managed to remain calm. After all, its just a plant, not a disaster, but I expressed my displeasure and dismay in the situation, and explained that he would have to go inside and explain to Grandma what he had done. Grandma made an excellent show of displeasure and disappointment, and we explained to him that breaking plants and touching other people's things and whatnot was wrong. We talked about the fact that Grandma had planted the plant, and was waiting all summer to see th eflower, and now she never would see it, because the plant was broken. We discussed the fact that when you break a plant, it dies, and can't flower or be green and pretty, but will instead get yellow and go away. We explained that saying sorry wasn't going to bring the plant back, and wasn't going to fix it, and that sorry meant that you wish you had not done something wrong. He seemed to get it- at least that we were upset, and he said he was "sorry about the plants." This was a pretty big jump, for him to at least connect the words to teh apology- he didn't just say "I'm sorry, Grandma" but "I'm sorry about the plants."
So, trying to pretend we weren't celebrating the advance in language use, we went home. There was more discussion about responsibility, and not switching to "Andy broke the plant", and how important it was for him to tell the truth and say that he broke the plant, and that sort of thing. He kept perseverating on the subject, so we kept working through it. Finally I got the music on (its also good not to dwell too long on such things, so that he will learn we still love him, and that no one is angry or upset forever), and we got home. Allan came down the stairs.
"Joey, tell Daddy what you did today," I said. I kept my tone even, because I didn't want to give him a huge prompt for what to say; we are tryign to teach him to self-narrate, and so far, we've washed out. Joey's usual response to this request, put in any fashion (What did you do today? How was school today? Where have you been this morning? Did you do anything fun today? etc) is to pretend we don't exist. Other requests, he'll at least turn his head or try to answer (even if the words that come out have nothing to do with what you asked), but this idea of constructing his own narrative completely shuts him down. Lately we've started to get some attempts at response, but mostly echoes and responses that have nothing to do with the past, with actions or activities, or anything vaguely resembling a response to the actual request. The closest we've been getting is "Joey's in the white car!" which is true, and kind of on topic, so we've been praising it.
"I went to see Grandma... " Joy! Jubiliation! Get out the champagne! Call the neighbors! Call Grandma! Chocolate and prize box for all! "...and I broke the plant. I'm sorry about the plant."
My son just told his father what he did today. He answered an open-ended question requesting narrative about past activities. He remembered he broke the plant, and told his father.