She apologized for asking me if she should have taken gym clothes to school. When I said she didn’t need them, she apologized again for asking. She doesn’t like how I did her hair – I’m sorry. She forgets to change the cat litter – I’m sorry. She doesn’t want a sip of the smoothie I made – I’m sorry.
My daughter, Miss I’m Sorry.
It’s a behavior – a knee-jerk reaction – that we're working on. “No reason to say you’re sorry – you didn’t do anything wrong” is my mantra. “I hate disappointing people,” she says. “I want you to know that I’m sorry for doing it.”
No one is disappointed in you for being you, for asking questions, for failing and for succeeding. We are all just living our lives, I say. No one needs to apologize for that.
I confess that she gets it honestly. Until recently I apologized in advance for things, even if I didn’t do anything wrong. “I’m sorry for thinking this” “I’m sorry I don't agree” “I’m sorry you don’t understand me.” Kids see and hear everything, and they are amazing mimics.
In comparison, my son has a healthy handle on apologies. He apologizes only when he has clearly committed some offense. When he realizes he has done something wrong, he’s sorry. On the other end of the spectrum, my husband almost never apologizes except after a long drawn out discussion that I need to initiate, at the end of which I have to feed him the words: This-is-where-you-say-you’re-sorry.
After a while I got tired of saying I’m sorry. I didn’t really feel sorry. I used the phrase as a catch-all for another person’s anticipated negative feelings. My apologies were usually wasted – most of the time the other person didn’t even feel bad about any perceived transgression of mine. I projected my feelings onto others, especially the low regard I had for myself in situations where I wasn’t on my best behavior.
It made me feel worse over time.
So I stopped saying it. I adopted different patterns, and took on my son’s clear boundaries for apology. Did I do something wrong? I'll apologize for that, but nothing else.
I will not apologize after saying something that you don’t want to hear.
I will not apologize for having a different opinion than you.
I will not apologize for insisting on table manners and please and thank you.
I won’t apologize for my ignorance on a subject I’ve never thought about before.
I will not apologize for not laughing at a joke I don’t think is funny.
I won’t apologize for staying home when everyone else wants to go out,
for watching a TV show that no one else likes,
for my music preferences,
for my political beliefs,
for saying no,
for saying yes,
for using a big word that you don’t know.
Look. It. Up.
There is no I’m sorry for being me.
I hope that my daughter learns this soon.