What does apologizing to your children look like and mean to you?
In my past apologizing, wasn't something that I said verbally. It was something that I did through actions, such as maybe buying the happy meal, making a favorite dinner, giving the candy bar, taking them somewhere fancy or fun. Apologizing now is, acknowledging what I've done wrong. Accepting my child(ren) have valid feelings and not trying to shift or spread the blame by including a "but." When I wanted to buy my way out of my actions, I believed my children enjoying the gift was their forgiveness. Oh, how wrong I was. Forgiveness is not guaranteed, even if I am their mom. My actions after the apology will dictate the outcome.
When it came to apologizing with trinkets, my kids never understood that I was sorry or felt remorseful. They just knew that I was doing something nice for them to make them forget about what transpired. They never received closure on the issue. Israel, Nadia, and Violet never felt emotionally or mentally validated. They never felt as though mom was taking accountability. They felt I or their dad was bribing them.
Apologizing wasn't about my kids. It was to make me feel less guilty. I could comfortably sit in lousy behavior because my kids were outwardly not affected by my poor decisions. In turn, their behavior was a reflection of my and husband's lack of consistency. In turn, our kids leaned into shifting blame or lying to avoid addressing and dealing with conflict. For our eldest son and daughter, they became dismissive, closed off, and worked at outsmarting or denying. For our youngest well, she blew the roof off by being the justice police. Not until we put the spotlight on ourselves. Addressed our contribution to the larger problem, begin to call our actions out as wrong in private and in front of our kids, create a safe space for them to state their grievances, and let them see our commitment to do better, did we see any change from them.
As a parent, I didn't want to believe I was capable of causing my children emotional harm. But, unfortunately, in that preposterous assumption, I lost credibility with my kids. I wanted them to take accountability for their actions, yet they could see their mom was not abiding by that same philosophy.
I have a responsibility to my kids to break generational traumas that I experienced in my life. I would like to believe I don't bring those traumas into my home. But, realistically, there are occasions when I have. Not apologizing to my kids was one.
Learning to let go of the ego and entitlement that surrounds being a parent is hard. Yet, as parents, we feel that our children should have unconditional love and forgiveness for all we do. Wrong, we are not above reproach. Think about the feeling you still harbor with your upbringing. How many moments still sting? How many apologies do you still feel are owed?
Saying I am sorry with a "but" defeats the purpose. I'm apologizing for saying this to you, but... I'm sorry for treating you this way, but... Right there, we've lost our kids. They've thrown out the apology. All they hear is you saying, is in some way your wrong decision is their fault.
Parenthood doesn't come with a handbook. or magic emotional maturity buttons. For me and my husband, we are going to constantly unlearn unhealthy behaviors and learn healthier ways to parent. We will do this even when it is uncomfortable. Our children deserve the best of us and sometimes it will come with us apologizing.
Find your dirt and connect.
Be well; you are worthy.