How Does a Toddler Say Sorry: Imagined Toddler Apology Notes


Back when I was an English teacher, my favorite writing unit was poetry. Every year I delighted in changing kids’ minds who walked in the door thinking that poetry was always boring, old, or too hard to understand. I loved to teach middle school kids to write poetry that came from their souls, that played with language, and that could make others laugh, cry, or think.

Now that I’m a mom to a toddler and no longer teaching, I don’t think much about similes, stanzas, and personification.

But I do wonder what my toddler son would compose — if, of course, he could write — if he learned about my favorite poem to teach kids: “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams.

Here is the real poem:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

There’s so much going on in that poem, and that’s why it’s such a fun and accessible way to introduce poetry to kids. It’s deceptively simple, but does so much with line breaks and word choice. And kids love to learn that Williams was actually a doctor who came home very late one night, ate his wife’s plums, and left a note for her (this actual poem). Once children get that — it’s really about an everyday act that could happen in anybody’s kitchen — they take off with it, writing dozens of their own not-quite-apology poems, imitating Williams’ form and tone.

It’s an apology poem with no genuine apology. And this is exactly how I imagine my toddler — so needy, so prone to mood swings and tantrums, so self-centered, so lacking in attention span, yet so cute, so funny, and so wildly loving — would write a note to me apologizing for his daily “crimes.”

Here are a few of his (imaginary) poems:

This Is Just To Say, Mommy

I woke you up
last night
ten times
in five hours

and now
you’re probably
tired today

So sorry, Mommy
maybe you should
go to bed

Sorry About Last Night’s Dinner, Mommy

I refused to eat
the five dinners
that you made
for me

I only wanted
and goldfish
and chips

Don’t be mad
you can do better, Mommy
goldfish and pickles
are so salty
and so crunchy

This Is What Happens When I Miss Mickey, Mommy

I shrieked
in the grocery store
from my cart prison
for 30 minutes

You got
looks of pity
and you begged me
to stop

So sorry
you got upset
I wanted to watch
Mickey Mouse


Can you write your apology poem from your child?

Don’t forget to check out The HerStories Project’s new website and learn about our book of essays about female friendship from an amazing collection of writers. Our book will be published next month. Learn more and follow us on Twitter and Facebook!


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  1. Jessica
    If there existed
    A designation
    For best mom blog post
    Of the whole year
    I would
    Pick this one
    Love Dawn
    Dawn @ PricklyMom recently posted…Gratitude for Ungrateful KidsMy Profile

  2. OMG, Jessica. I can’t even explain how much I love this post. So clever. So funny! Sharing it everywhere. :-)
    JD @ Honest Mom recently posted…It’s been five years of battling depression. And I’m really, really Tired.My Profile

  3. Oh, I’m so in love with this!
    Shell recently posted…Gift Ideas for Boys: Lincoln LogsMy Profile

  4. Favourite thing in my inbox so far this a.m. :) xoxo
    nothingbythebook recently posted…Don’t fight with the four-year-old. Just don’t.My Profile

  5. Stephanie Carlson says:

    The one about Mickey Mouse KILLED me. That’s my 16 month old right there.

  6. Oh Mom I’m so sorry
    I cried crocodile tears
    and hid my face
    in my pillow

    You always seem
    to want to help
    and keep me clean
    and suc

    Your look of exasperation
    was such a shame
    I really do like
    my jacket dirty

    I love this! Thanks PricklyMom for passing it along!!!

  7. Oh the things I hear that I’m sorry for… toddlers are fun, funny, and silly!
    Alexa recently posted…Blog Tour Stop #5 Sunshine After the Storm Review – Mom’s Don’t Say ThatMy Profile

  8. What’s So Great About Sleep?

    I was so excited to tell you
    that two
    three times
    makes six
    That I had to tell you
    at 5 a.m.
    Dawn @ PricklyMom recently posted…Gratitude for Ungrateful KidsMy Profile

  9. OMG I’m laughing hysterically! “So sorry you got upset!” These are perfect poems for toddlers! Perfect perfect. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to do a poem with “sorry I pooped in my pants almost every day” but need some time between now and writing. I love these, so much!

  10. I called you
    the meanest

    But you
    know by now
    that I don’t really
    mean it.

    Forgive me,
    but I really
    didn’t want
    to put socks on.

    I love this Jessica, and that was so therapeutic, because that did actually happen this morning!! :)
    Sarah @ LeftBrainBuddha recently posted…Just Dance!My Profile

  11. I would really like to kiss you right now. I know we haven’t met and it’s a little soon, but this…this is so so good. Thank you!

    This is just to say

    I have spilled
    the milk
    that was in
    the carton

    the swig
    you were probably
    for breakfast

    I’m sorry
    it was so much fun
    to splash
    in it though.

  12. Sorry About Last Night’s Dinner as to be my favourite one, although it’s a tough choice. That was brilliant,Jessica.

  13. OK seriously, tears are pouring down my face. You so hit the nail right on the head. I am not sorry for what I did, I am sorry you can’t handle it. Just so perfect. SO PERFECT!
    JenKehl – My Skewed View recently posted…Genesis 2 – And Then There Was The WordMy Profile

  14. Yes, yes,yes and yes. This was FABULOUS! Though I need to think about it a bit mine would be something about throwing all my dinner on the floor and then wanting to eat it anyway. Brilliant brillant brillant!
    Surprise Mama recently posted…I am getting annoyed with FacebookMy Profile

  15. LOL. Love your funny side!!!
    Deb @ Urban Moo Cow recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: The UnfathomableMy Profile

  16. This is perfection. Brilliant idea! :)
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted…The Indignities of Family Meal TimeMy Profile

  17. Love it! Always liked that poem too….

    This Is Just to Say
    I didn’t eat dinner
    I don’t like meatloaf
    I would’ve eaten

    if you made something good.
    I said I wasn’t hungry.
    I will be later.

    After bedtime.
    Mine and yours.
    Liz recently posted…Zoe vs. the NYC MarathonMy Profile

  18. That is brilliant! I am poetically challenged, but I’ll try to come up with one of my own.
    TK recently posted…The stigma that kills…My Profile

  19. Love these! As a poet myself, especially love thinking about what my toddler would say. The site is looking great and I’m eager to check over to book’s new site too!

  20. Hi there it’s me, I am also visiting this web page on a regular basis,
    this site is truly pleasant and the visitors are actually sharing nice
    auto loans for people with poor credit recently posted…auto loans for people with poor creditMy Profile

  21. I LOVE William Carlos Williams, and my favorite is the wheelbarrow one….but the plums piece is pretty sweet, too (pun intended). So funny!
    erin margolin recently posted…Hunger, Health, & The Thanksgiving ProjectMy Profile

  22. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this site.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appeal.

    I must say you have done a excellent job with this.

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  1. […] fun for me to try out more improvisational writing sometimes. Some of my favorite posts (“Imagined Toddler Apology Notes“; “5 Reasons You Should Be Watching More and Better TV“) have been written when I […]

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