Sorry seems to be the hardest word
A note to my daughter — when she’s ready to read it
I try to keep things light in this ostensible humor column. My life certainly provides a good amount of fodder in my daily foibles as a single parent. But sometimes you have to fall on your sword and discuss moderately serious stuff.
The other day, as my 14-year-old daughter and I bickered over nonsense while grocery shopping, I asked her why she was so relentlessly hard on me, which already probably sounds like a weird conversation to most normal-dynamic parents.
Her reply was, “because you never feel remorse for anything you say or do.”
Naturally, that hit me like a truck. I was furious and indignant. How dare she accuse me of such callousness! Did my life not revolve around her 200%? Did I not give her (albeit sometimes begrudgingly) everything she ever asked for? Did I not secretly consider myself a saint for putting up with her mood swings? Was I not trying my hardest to provide some semblance of comfort and normalcy for this messed-up summer?
I wasn’t even willing to consider that I had done anything wrong, much less that I wasn’t remorseful for it.
But as the incredible family counselor Dr. Ben Garber can explain to you as he did to me, when you’re talking about children and teens — and possibly other relationships — it doesn’t matter what I think of someone else’s feelings. Their feelings are valid because they feel them. Her complaints are valid because they are true in her experience.
So, I’m here today to publicly apologize to my kid — well, to my future kid. Right now, she doesn’t really believe me. But I am sorry for all the times I’ve upset you. And I mean it. I know that I’m not perfect, and I know that I make mistakes. I definitely know that I think I’m always right. But whenever there is a quarrel between us, I always feel bad, and I always have remorse.
There are few mothers out there that don’t feel remorse about something in their parenting. I will say I definitely underestimated the guilt load I would experience. I thought becoming a mom so close to age 40, I’d be much more mature and have such a better handle on things. Har de har.
I never want my daughter to think I’m not sorry when things go askew between us. If we want to teach our children to own up to their mistakes, to be willing to apologize and feel remorseful, we as parents have to show them by example. It’s an important element to any successful future relationship she’ll have — and to ours.
Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning editor and journalist, marketing/communications content writer and occasional comedic actress. She is a single mom to a teenager, so naturally she enjoys a glass of wine, or two.