Lessons from a Broken Candle

broken candle, partially but not really repaired

A few weeks ago, my two year old found this havdalah candle on the table and picked it up. She was probably twisting it around in her hands, maybe she wanted to see if she could unbraid it and before she knew it, the candle broke. Havdolah candles are lit for a ceremony marking the end of Shabbat (the sabbath). We don’t do it every week, so the candle was a bit of a novelty to have out.

I came in the room and before thinking said, “oh, you broke it”.  I saw her whole body startle.  She looked at me as if emerging from a reverie, and looked very sad.  “Sorry, candle.”  She said, her tiny voice full of remorse.

I was quick to try to soften the blow, “that’s ok, we will fix it, wax melts. we can stick it back together. We can still use it.”  But it was too late, she was sad.  A few more times that night she said, “sorry, candle”.  At two, her memory is getting longer.  I wished I hadn’t jumped to say something, it was clearly an accident.  She could not possibly know that wax is so breakable.

I kept reassuring her and expecting her to forget, but she kept bringing it up again.  “candle, sorry, broken, candle”.  And I kept telling her it was OK, things break, everybody breaks things sometimes, it is good to say your sorry, everybody forgives her.

I see you, You See Me book

A couple of weeks passed and she did not talk about it anymore.   I was starting to forget about it. But last night, as I was putting her to bed with this book she started stroking the edge of the mirror and saying, “sorry, sorry”.   At first, I did not make the connection and I asked her, “why are you sorry?”

“Sorry candle,” she said.  And then I saw, of course, the blue and white border reminded her of the candle.   And she was still sorry! It reminded me that I need to think before I speak, since you can’t take back your words.  I am so sorry I made her feel bad enough about breaking the candle that she is remembering it weeks later.  But I am also happy that she is still little enough that I can pretty much follow her train of thought and little free associations.

Thanks for following along with me.


  1. I don’t think the lesson is that you need to feel bad about saying something or having a reaction. I think she’s just learning that things break. She may even be learning something about being careful with things. You didn’t say she was in distress (outside of minor sadness) so unless she is in distress, she’s probably having a normal reaction. You can probably let up on yourself and allow yourself to have normal human reactions too. She might just be finding that interesting.

  2. thanks Debby, you are probably right, she is figuring out so much right now. And I guess I will keep having normal reactions too.

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