As a child, I grew up in an environment where adults are always, always right. One is never to question authority, and was always taught to obey the words of the older (and often perceived as the) wiser ones by virtue of how much longer they have lived before you were born.
By the same token, it would be very unheard of that an adult would admit that they have screwed up and then apologise to the child for their wrong doings. Hell no! No respectful adult would dream of doing that as they would blatantly retort in an almost condescending tone with, “Why should I, the older one, be apologising to YOU? I’m older and I KNOW better. You are a child – you are wrong and I am right.”
Since I was a child, I have always felt like I am the odd one out as I never really conformed or want to conform to society norms. I was almost constantly perceived as challenging authority, but I did it not because for the hell of it, but mainly because I have a need to KNOW the whys behind the whats. I have at one time gotten a big, fat smack on my head with a 100-page book when I was barely 9 years old, just because I asked “Where is God? How do you know God exist?” to a teacher who was a very staunch Muslim.
My take was, he hadn’t expected such questions, didn’t know the answer and so decided that I should be smacked for having the audacity to ask such questions. Did I get a “I’m sorry for smacking your head” ? Absolutely not! Adults don’t apologise remember. And if they ever do, it was mostly without any conviction that they really were sorry, or, they’ll have to convince you that you are just dead wrong.
Saying sorry as it is can really be one of the more difficult things to do. Granted, I can imagine that one would rather be buying expensive gifts or go the distance to be kind as a gesture of apology rather than saying the word sorry in person. And for anyone to have been exposed to an environment as I have described above, uttering the word sorry, to a child, and actually mean it, can be doubly hard.
While I don’t think I have any problems saying sorry to anyone – as in fact, too often, I would jump too quickly to apologise instead, when the mistakes are clearly mine (or not! according to Silver Bullet), I won’t lie that saying sorry to my own child when I have erred is well…hard!
I don’t know if it’s a function of having been exposed to the said environment above, but I certainly think that it might have an impact as to why I had initially find it really, really difficult to tell Spud “I’m sorry” when I clearly should not have yelled, screamed, harshly intimidated her or accidentally saying harsh words when my buttons were pushed.
I guess I could have played dumb and avoided saying sorry to my child altogether, because after all I am THE parent. However, the sensitive child in me felt otherwise and thinks that a child does deserve an apology as much as any adults do when an apology is deemed appropriate. In fact, I think admitting that you have made a mistake rather than pushing the blame takes courage.
I am not talking about the menial everyday sorries we utter when we accidentally scratch her with our nails as we try to help her pull up her pants or accidentally hit his head with our elbows as we try to retrieve something over his head. I am referring to those deep, heart-felt sorries when you know that you have made a mistake and that your child deserves as apology.
Yeah. I’ll be the first to say that it was hard for me to say sorry to Spud initially after one of my first big fat yell that scared the living daylight out of me when she was barely 2 years old. In fact, even after I have cooled down, I remember cringing to myself while uttering those words as I looked deep into her eyes. And meaning it.
It still is hard sometimes to have to say sorry to my own child…harder especially when ego or the need for power takes over. But, it does and has gotten easier over time and as a parent, I have come to realize that saying those magic words can be liberating. And we both feel much better thereafter to move on.
And as hard as it was to mouth off “I’m sorry” the first few times, especially after a yell that would scare off the coyotes in the Serengeti, being able to admit to your mistake is a virtue and saying sorry is not a sign of weakness at all. It merely validates that we are human and human naturally make mistakes. And that it is OK.
Now go say you are sorry to your kids (As appropriate). Just don’t forget to top that up with hugs and kisses and truckloads of “I love yous” (another set of very under-used magic words that requires another post)