Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sorry is (apparently) the Hardest Word to Say

Ben is really bad at apologizing.  It isn't that he is a bad person. He tries really hard to do the right thing and I don't know that he has EVER intentionally hurt anyone.  I don't even think he has it in him.  But he just doesn't think he is ever wrong (or at least he can't admit when he is).  It doesn't matter how glaringly obvious the emotional injury is or how many times I try to explain it, he just doesn't get that even though it wouldn't bother him, it really bothers me.  So when he just gives in and apologizes just to shut me up (usually while rolling his eyes and saying "there, you happy now?'), we all know that it was only issued out of annoyance and/or pity.

Imagine the example this sets for a 4 year old.

A couple of days ago, Lila was climbing on/beating up Ben on the couch (as usual) and he moved the wrong way and accidentally pulled her hair (or hit her with an elbow, or something).  She started crying and was very upset because she thought he had done it on purpose. 

As mothers, we all know that there is no use in trying to explain to a 4 year old that it was not done on purpose and that there is no reason to be upset unless you really want to drag the tears out for 45 minutes.  It's best just to say sorry and give a kiss to make it better and move on with your day.

It isn't a game.
Daddy doesn't see it this way.  He simply told her to stop.  That she wasn't really hurt.  You can imagine how this went over.  Naturally, she cried even harder.

"Say you're sorry, Daddy."  I told him.  "That's what you do when you hurt someone."

You might want to sit down when I tell you his response.

"I didn't hurt her.  She did it herself.  What should I apologize for?"

Go ahead.  Let that sink in for a minute.

You should note that THESE boys are about
8 years old.

Obviously shocked that he would even need to be told to apologize, let alone debate the issue with me, I went on.  "Ben, she needs to know that when you hurt someone, the right thing to do is apologize.  You don't claim you didn't do it.  You don't tell them to get over it.  YOU SAY YOU'RE SORRY.  BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE DO WHEN THEY HURT SOMEONE WHETHER THEY MEAN IT OR NOT...."

"Yeah, but I didn't do anything.  She did it."  I suddenly realized that I am teaching morality to not one, but TWO children.

"Ben," I said. "When she accidentally knocks someone over in school even if they bump into HER, should she turn to them and say 'I didn't do anything.  I don't know what to tell you,' or should she instinctively say, 'Sorry, let me help you up?'"

Eyes rolling, and with a dramatic sigh that I mostly recognize from my 4 year old drama queen, he belts out, "FINE!  Sorry."

This is what he was really saying.
Lila continued to cry.

"She isn't even REALLY crying!" REALLY BEN???  This is what you are going with?  "She is only making a big deal of this because YOU are."

"Um...No.  If you had just apologized and rubbed her head where it hurt this would have been over, but since you are acting like a bratty child, she still feels bad because you clearly don't care that you hurt her."

"I DIDN'T HURT HER!!!!" He is still sticking to his story.  "Plus, I just said I was sorry and she's still crying."

What the hell kind of person did I get involved with?  Am I going to find the bodies of mutilated squirrels in the basement?  What kind of animal doesn't just try to make their 4 year old feel better?

This song is stuck in my head now.
Then I realized that this wasn't about him and her.  It was about me and him.

"Ben, you need to realize that you are showing her how to treat people.  If you don't want her to be a total asshole when she gets older, you need to do a better job of not showing her what an asshole acts like."

At this I went over to Lila and tried to change the subject.

He walked out of the room pissed off. 

We haven't talked about it since.


  1. Yikes! I totally agree with you! As one who has accidently sorta-injured my daughter several times, I know that being sympathetic and apologizing is the quickest way to move past the incident.

  2. I am impressed you were able to realize you couldn't control him only your reaction to him. I am also amazed you haven't talked about it since--I would be unable to let it drop (thanks mom!) and would have had to have a conversation (or 20) after the fact and away from my daughter, but it sounds like you have done that before so maybe I would learn too once I hit the brick wall enough times!

  3. I know exactly what you mean. My hubby is very petulant. Drives me nuts when he throws a hissy fit for stupid reasons. I try to do the same thing. Point out the bad behavior without nagging.

  4. "She is only making a big deal of this because you are" If I had a dollar everytime my husband said that. Anytime my daughter gets hurt, and I hear her cry,I drop what I'm doing and run to her. And what I run into, is a Hand in my face, and him mouthing to me, "she's fine, YOU are going to make it worse" -or- "you feed into it too much" A four year old with a skinned knee. I think the asphalt in her open wound is actually making it worse!!I always say there should be a Man island, and a Woman island.We can send a boat over to get them only when we are in the mood for them. I feel ya! :(

  5. I have had similar situations over other issues but it unfolds in a pretty similar manner. And it sucks!

  6. I learned a long time ago that no matter what I do, or how I try to point it out, I am always the one who is wrong in my relationship. My husband just doesn't EVER do anything wrong. Now, I really know the truth, but I have given up. My 4 kids........they are learning this type of attitude from their daddy. It's very frustrating. I do all that I can to mitigate his influence in this direction. Ultimately, I still get blamed.
    Good luck. Unless you can get him to see what's happening, it sounds as if you'll be in the same boat as me.

  7. typical man response. sounds like something mine would do. sigh.

  8. "Ben," I said. "When she accidentally knocks someone over in school even if they bump into HER, should she turn to them and say 'I didn't do anything. I don't know what to tell you,' or should she instinctively say, 'Sorry, let me help you up?'"

    As a man, who is normally apologetic in these situations (and this situation he definitely should have said sorry), this particular example was a no no to present to a man. IF someone bumps into me, and they end up on the ground, you may ask that they are all right or hurt or whatever...but you do not apologize. If anything you tell that person to watch where they are going and demand an apology from them for running into you and disturbing your personal bubble!!! It doesn't matter that they fell over and got hurt...they ran into you.

    Which in a related incident as a child, I still maintain my sister cut her own eyebrow with her ring when she attempted to block an inevitable headlock when trying to battle physically against her older brother...who was um, minding his own business at the time? :P

  9. Seriously?

    I mean.. SERIOUSLY?

    My husband frequently pisses me off, but even he gets "I'm sorry" for toddlers.

    Good thing too, or a frying pan might accidentally hit his head while I say, "Dude, you totally did it to yourself by not apologizing to our daughter. I'm not going to say I'm sorry."

    Um yeah.... A good thing.

  10. Hi Selena, just discovered your brilliant blog.

    I just wanted to say that from a counsellors point of view, faced with an emotional outburst, men tend to react in the way that THEY were reacted to as a child. So if a parent told them not to cry, or that it was their own fault, then they are more than likely to respond the same once they themselves become parents.

    As a mum however, I would have pulled his testicles through his nut sack with my bare hands!

    Now following you. :)

  11. Lily: That mental picture made me giggle. Thank you.

  12. Oh boy. Men. I always tell my kids they are not always apologizing because they hurt someone, they too often don't think they are the culprit, but that they should say sorry because they are sorry that the other person is upset. It's called showing empathy and doesn't necessarily mean one is admitting to fault. Sometimes is works...


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