Last week the little girls were playing with the neighbor girls. I try to listen in when they play with these particular girls because, time after time, there are “teaching moments.” I end up having to say “we don’t do that in our household.” Or “we don’t make fun of others in our household.” Or “we don’t use those words in our household.” I might as well bug their rooms so I know when to pop my head in.
Nevertheless, last week they were playing, and at some point I’d heard my oldest little girl and her friend arguing but I let it go. A bit later, my oldest little girl rushed in crying, and saying that her friend had been mean to her. I said that she could go ahead and tell her friend that if she was going to be unkind, that she should go home, so she did.
I’d had errands to run anyway, so I scooped up my little girls, and we left as their friends were biking away. While out, I asked what had happened, and it turns out there had been a big misunderstanding. Her friend had likely thought my little girl was being mean and it snowballed from there. As we pulled back into our driveway I had an idea. I suggested to my oldest little girl that she call her friend and apologize if she thought she was being unkind. I told her that it’s important to admit when we’ve been wrong, or unkind, and that if there was a chance the friend thought my little girl was being mean we should nip it in the bud to protect the friendship.
We went inside and she made the call right away. I overheard her saying “I’ve had a rough day today. I’m sorry if you thought I was trying to be mean.” They then continued to chat for a bit and she finally hung up. Her friend had also admitted to having a tough day, everything was fine between them, and my oldest little girl felt like she’d done a really good thing.
And I felt like a GENIUS!
What great lessons I’d just taught about the importance of apologizing, admitting fault, and communicating regret over bad behavior! This will surely follow them through life! I’d made them such better people in just one evening! Phew! Parenting is hard work…but I’m really good at it!!!
Today I was working and something occurred to me. About a year ago, I was listening to MPR, and I don’t know what the report was on but I remember feeling a jolt and thinking that I needed to tell someone with whom I used to work that I’m sorry. A good and long explanation and a heartfelt apology. I was driving at the time and thought I’d do it once back in the office. I didn’t.
Over the past year, I’ve thought about it again many times. But each time I do I’m somewhere other than in front of my computer. I’m in Target, or I’m baking (don’t scoff…I bake from time to time…or…at least at Christmas), or I’m exercising, or I’m drifting off to sleep. And the time has passed, and the apology has sat gathering dust in my mind, and I’ve never done anything about it.
Well today it came to me again. But this time I WAS sitting in front of my computer. And this time I DID have a few minutes I could spare. I thought of my oldest little girl dialing up her little friend to apologize for being a bit unkind and decided that I am an adult damn it. And thus…I can surely write out an apology.
It wasn’t easy. It took work to explain it all, and to tell her that the explanations weren’t meant as excuses, and to admit bad behavior and poor choices, and that not only do I apologize but that I’m also incredibly grateful for her support at a difficult time in my life. And…I’m not a cryer…but it made me tear-up a bit.
I typically read, and re-read, and re-read again the things I write. I want to be sure my intent is clear, that my tone can’t be mistaken, and that I’m conveying what I’d really like to convey. This time I read it over once and hit send. As an adult…I know how easy it is to chicken-out of things.
Not 15 minutes later my phone rang. It was a familiar number, one from my past, but I wasn’t quite sure who was calling. I answered and it was her. She’d received my email. Was it spam? Was it real? No, not spam. Yes, it’s real. I explained that the apology had been in me for at least a year, and that I’m sorry I didn’t send it earlier, but that I had the chance to do so today and I did. She was grateful and appreciative. We spent some time catching-up, learning about the goings on of our families, and finally agreed to try to have lunch sometime.
I got off the phone and felt amazing. Like a small weight had been lifted. It made me realize how important it is to hold myself accountable for the things I’ve done wrong and to do something about it when I recognize that I’ve made mistakes. It also reminded me how important it is to teach lessons by example. I don’t have any business asking the little girls to behave in a particular manner if I’m not willing to do so myself.
TODAY: What if, when I’m not able to be my best self, I am sure to apologize for any mistakes and/or poor choices I make that affect other people? What if the best way for my little girls to learn how to be good people is to be one myself?