Remember Happy Days, and how Fonzie could never say “I was w-w….I was wer…” He could never say he was wrong.
I remember a time when one of my daughters (who shall remain nameless) was a preschooler. I’d noticed she was finding it impossible to apologize, to admit she was wrong, when there were little blow ups with her friends. So, when she slapped me in anger, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to push her through and have to admit she was wrong and apologize. We went in our tent, and I explained how what she did hurt me.
“No it didn’t,” she said. Yes, it did, I said. It hurt my face and it hurt my feelings.
“I don’t want you here. I want mommy.” I know you do. It feels yucky between us right now. What can we do to fix it?
“Don’t know.” I need you to say you’re sorry you hit daddy. Then I can forgive you, and we can hug, and it can fix what’s yucky.
“I don’t want to say it.” I know. It’s hard. It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong. But it’s important. Because until you say you’re sorry, we can’t get to the good part. I can’t forgive you, and we can’t hug. We’ll just stay here in the tent feeling yucky until you decide to say “I’m sorry.”
I wanted to push her to do this while it still was a relatively little thing. It seemed really important to make her understand it did hurt me and she did need to figure out how to heal a broken relationship by admitting she was wrong and saying she was sorry. It took her quite awhile, but she did apologize, and we did hug, and it was really good.
This is important. Admitting when we’re wrong and apologizing is important. It’s important for me, and it’s important to teach my children. And apparently, some people never learned this lesson.
“Look, Mr. Brown,” I want to be able to say. “You are not leaving this tent until you can say, ‘What we did wasn’t enough. It hurt, and I’m sorry.’”
Apparently, this is too much to ask.