Thursday, October 23, 2008

Love Means Having to Say You're Sorry

Despite Erich Segal's famous line, love does mean having to say you're sorry. Not just for the big things, but for the smaller ones. Without a doubt, a monumental screw up (ie: adultery, financial ruin, get the idea) requires an apology. But what about the little things? Those seemingly small incidents that can be blown off yet still hurt. I think a festering or a build up of small insults that don't get resolved are as damaging as a big issue. Perhaps more so. And we're more apt to apologize to a perfect stranger for bumping into them than to apologize to our loved ones for taking the last slice of pizza or not doing the dishes.

In books, it's the big things that make an exciting read--adultery, murder, theft. Sure, there are stories about little screw ups, but that's more "literary" fodder : ) Most of real life (or at least MY real life) is made up of little episodes, both good and bad. Fewer of us have to deal with the aftermath of major mistakes. But we must contend with all those little ones we inflict or receive.

Standing at the bus stop this rainy, chilled morning, I chided my youngest child for not having zipped her backpack. As I zipped it for her, I noticed her homework folder wasn't inside. She is notorious for just dropping the folder near her pack without actually putting it inside. So I got upset because unless I brought her homework in to her she'd get points off for it being late. Yeah, some of you may think I should have just let her take the hit to learn her lesson about being responsible, but that's for another post. Instead, I told her I'd bring her the folder today but never again. She was upset that I was upset and promised to be better prepared. The bus arrived and I said I'd be along at school soon.

I trudged back up the hill to the house and searched for the folder. And couldn't find it. Crap. The car was already warming up so I figured I'd run in and let her know I couldn't find the darn thing. She and her sister were in the cafeteria with a slew of other kids waiting for the bell to start the day. And there, beside her, was her folder.

"It was bent over in my backpack," she said.

I felt horrible for having gotten mad. "I should have double checked. I'm sorry."

Her little face lit up at my apology. She'd been more upset at my reaction than I'd realized. I told her and her sister I loved them, to have a good day, and I'd see them after school.

I have no problem letting my children know I make mistakes. I want them to realize that no one is perfect. That when you screw up, you apologize whether it's a big thing or a little thing, and try not to repeat the same mistake twice.

Will my getting upset at her scar her for life? I doubt it. But I hope my willingness to admit my mistake and apologize for it will make an impression. Will I screw up again? Probably, but hopefully it'll be over something different. And I'll apologize again.



At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're really good about taking responsibility in our house too, As it should be! It takes integrity to admit a fault and I think that is something a lot of people lack.

Good for you, Cathy and good for your children, too, because I know they'll be better people for it!

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

Thanks, Meretta. And good for you and your family too :)

Taking responsibility for our own actions and not freaking when we do mess up are things I'm trying to get across to my kids. It's getting there, but still has its challenges.

My youngest used to do stuff and not care how much trouble she got into. That was tough to deal with. How do you punish a 4 year old who doesn't care if she spends the day in her room???? Luckily, she began recognizing that good behavior was a benefit. Whew! And both of them were subject to the "must be perfect" mindset for a time. Where did THAT attitude come from??? Not me : ) I'll blame their dad.

At 4:32 AM, Blogger Writer and Cat said...

My girls say SORRY! a lot, in this smirky, yelling fashion. I don't think they mean it.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

W&C: You don't think they're sincere??? :) When mine do that, and I give them the arched eyebrow of disapproval, they're all wide-eyed innocent and say, "What? I SAID sorry." Again, I'll blame their father.


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