Over a decade ago, I was sitting in McDonald’s (yes McDonald’s… hey I was tired, no judging) with my six year old son and seven year old niece after a long and wonderful day in Philadelphia. I was watching the time as they laughed and gleefully discussed the day’s events.
We had driven from New York to witness our cousin’s entrance into college dorm life and it was thrilling for them. An accomplishment they would one day achieve was happening to a close family member, a road trip adventure and a chance for the three of us to bond sent them into an endless talk-fest. I loved watching them.
These two weren’t just cousins. They were encased in a magical friendship, reveling in shared memories and I was watching them and the clock.
I can drive anywhere but it is not my thing. So as much as I was relishing the moment, my anxiety was growing and I wanted to hit the road. Finally, they finished and we (really me) rushed to the car. They were lagging way behind caught up in a conversation that sent them into fits of laughter that caused them to fall behind even further.
“Hurry up! You two are getting on my last nerve. I am sorry I brought you!” I yelled. Then I hear a painful “awwwww” like a balloon deflating coming from my son. I stopped and turned around to see two hurt, disappointed and confused little faces.
They were crushed… I’ve failed.
“I thought you wanted us to come,” my son painfully whispers. Somewhere from deep in my spirit, my commitment to transparent parenting takes over and I hear myself saying. “I’m sorry, I’m nervous about driving back so late because I’m tired and instead of telling you, I yelled at you. I am actually glad you came. I love your company.”
“Oh.” Sighs of relief from both. “We can understand that. I’ve been scared. I’ve been tired,” my niece chimed in. “I’ve yelled at someone when I was tired,” my son continued giving me a knowing look. “Yeah, that can happen,” my niece sympathetically declared.
I’m a better parent now and they are wise little sages. As I was relishing this deep moment, we hurried to the car. The ride back was filled with music and uncontrollable laughter from the back seat and then it started to rain.
“Be quiet you two!!” I yelled to the backseat. The laughter was shattered and I felt too comforted by the silence to apologize again. This was the time in my life when I realized that apologies are hard but they are important.
Apologies are important to me because I only received one apology from my mom my entire childhood and it was so foreign to me I just stared in silence.
Apologies are important to me because as this slice of my life demonstrates, we are humans who are capable of making mistakes especially when fear abounds.
Apologies are important to me because I have seen the same two words mend the smallest infractions and the largest deeply held hurts.
Apologies are important to me because from CEO’s to government officials, from parents to lovers, from young people to elders, far too many of us are bad at apologizing. So bad, in fact, it takes more than this one piece for me to address it.
Stay tuned for my list of “Seven Twisted Ways To Apologize” next week.
Let me hear from you if you have ever received a twisted apology. You know the kind of apology where they said the words but there’s something just so wrong about the way they delivered it.
If you reach out to me on my website, I’ll try to include it.
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