I demand an apology
November 14, 2013
Someone actually used this phrase toward me in all seriousness a few years ago.
Can you imagine a healthy, intelligent and mature person EVER saying this?
No way, right.
Because demanding an apology is lame. Because if someone is truly sorry they will say it of their own accord. Because the word is meaningless if it’s given out of fear. Honestly apologizing is an act of bravery, no one likes admitting they’re wrong. It’s also an act of love, it says “for this moment, my own discomfort is less important than your happiness” and “I’m willing to set aside my pride and let you know that I realize you’re hurting” and “I am responsible for your pain and dammit, just knowing this is hurting me, too.”
I don’t tell my kids to apologize.
I model apologies when I’ve said or done something I regret, whether I should have known better or if I discovered afterward that my words or actions had hurt someone. My kids see me apologizing regularly, sometimes several times a day because people make mistakes.
Just today I have apologized for throwing away a disposable fork (I didn’t realize she wasn’t done with it), deciding not to stop at an extra store for a screen cover, snapping at the girls for bickering in the back seat, stepping on someone’s toe, dropping someone’s toy, closing a book someone wasn’t done reading. It’s just about noon and I can guarantee that I’ll be apologizing a hundred more times before I finally fall asleep tonight.
Nothing is sweeter than hearing the kids honestly apologize to one another. No matter how angry they are, they tend to apologize for hurting one another. At times, it seems that the apology faucet is leaking because I hear apologies for very silly things, like “I’m sorry, Gracie, I didn’t mean to touch your picture” or “I’m sorry for making that face at you” or “I’m sorry I buckled up first.”
They might not apologize right away. They might not apologize at all. To me, the peaceful relationship doesn’t need to depend on one specific phrase in order to show remorse. Sometimes, their apologies come in the form of making a present for the other, giving away a favorite toy or just a hug.
As a mom, I tend to save little mementos and some of my favorite ones are spontaneous notes of apology from my kids. So far my oldest three girls have each gone through this phase of written apology notes at around 12 years old or so. My observation is that they go through a (possibly hormonally induced) phase of nastiness and can SEE the affects that it has on the rest of us. Being with someone who is crabby is very difficult and contagious. These handwritten apologies are representative of a HUGE developmental milestone. They saw the way their mood affected the people around them and sat down to intelligently articulate the offense. I treasure these notes as much as I treasure their baby pictures and homemade mother’s day cards.
If I were one of those “Say you’re sorry” moms, How would I know WHEN to tell them to apologize? Chances are pretty high that I’d be wanting them to apologize and make up long before they’re really ready to move on. I’ve seen parents doing this before. Of course we want the conflict to end. But it’s not our conflict. And when we’re “the victim” is it really dignified to demand that they apologize to us? Nothing about forced apologies are dignified. How can an adult demand an apology without feeling like a complete weasel?
I don’t tell them to apologize to one another because their apologies would be a forced and meaningless chanting of a word that they may or may not mean at the time.
I don’t tell them to apologize because it’s usually none of my business.
I don’t tell them to apologize because I don’t want to rob them of the feeling of true remorse.
I wouldn’t want to receive an apology that someone was forced to give me.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to hear some apologies. But they wouldn’t mean anything if I demanded them or even asked nicely.
I won’t let their lack-of-apology keep me from forgiving them. I don’t want to carry around anger for that long. But I don’t feel inclined to continue sharing my life with someone who could treat me hurt fully and then not care enough to apologize.
An apology says more than just “I’m sorry.” It says “I realize that I hurt you and I’ll do my best to not hurt you again.” It can also mean “I wish I hadn’t done that.” And sometimes “I wish I could undo that.”
A forced apology says “apparently I pissed you off so I’m going to say this word to please someone else or get you off my back”
There’s an age when feelings of remorse simply don’t exist. Forcing toddlers to apologize does NOT help them learn to feel remorse. “Saying sorry” because you’ve been told to say it is in NO WAY equal to an apology.
Another thing about apologies is that sometimes we apologize for things we didn’t do. An apology doesn’t always mean we’re taking responsibility for something, sometimes it just means that we agree that something sucks. “I’m sorry for your loss,” “I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now” and “I’m sorry that happened.” I remember being so confused to hear my parents using sorry in this way as a child. “Mom, you don’t have to say sorry, it’s not your fault.”
Imagine how confusing that is for a child.
I’m almost done ranting here, bear with me.
For the children who were engaged in conflict, whereby one of them has captured the attention of the adult enough to warrant an intervention in the form of a forced apology: What if the adult is wrong?
I’ve seen this happen several times. Child #1 is pestering child #2 and child #2 snaps. Adult sees child #2 kick child #1 and then tells him to say he’s sorry. Except, he’s so NOT sorry and those two kids have a lot more conversation in order than simply chanting a word. No one can force child #2 to actually feel remorse especially when he’s feeling that his behavior is justified.
The relationship my kids have with one another has nothing to do with me.
That’s deep and very important and, unfortunately, I think it’s a foreign concept to a lot of parents. It’s too much to write about here, I’m done with my ranting about the practice of forced apologies.
So now I have mental notes to blog about our good morning songs and why the sibling relationships in my house have nothing to do with me.
I’d love to hear stories from your childhood about apologies and conflict, or stories about your children and apologies. Do you have good reasons for telling your kids to apologize? Add to the discussion, please.