Sorry seems to be the hardest word


Last week my boy crossed the line and said a couple of really mean things to me.  I was quite rocked by his lashing out and am expecting an apology. Looks like it might be a while.

During these days of waiting, I’ve been puzzling over his inability to offer a simple “I’m sorry.”  As a mom, I can only assume I failed to convey some fundamental component of character to him.  I can’t imagine that he doesn’t understand how hurt my feelings were by his words, especially since I’ve mentioned a number of times how hurt my feelings were by his words.  I can only conclude that he must not know how to properly apologize.

After arriving at this conclusion, I’ve made several attempts to help him formulate an apology.  My initial bid was quietly direct and went something like this: “You know I deserve and expect an apology from you, right?”  Response: nothing.

I continued to treat him to my cold shoulder, a technique which I find most males struggle to get beyond, until I took another crack at it prompted by his request to host a sleepover at our house.  When I refused to allow him to have a friend spend the night (using a minimum of words, of course), he asked if I would change my mind if he apologized.  I told him I wasn’t negotiating with him and gave him an excerpt from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture to absorb read. The topic of the chapter was perfect – it was a discussion about how an insincere apology is more offensive than no apology.  End result: nothing.

My most recent foray in eliciting an apology was an appeal to his adolescent need to be popular.  I asked him how he thought his friends and their parents would feel about him if they knew the things he had said to me.  His response: nothing.

I don’t think my son is a bad kid, nor do I think he truly thinks I am a not-too-smart-female-dog, but I do believe we’re at an impasse.  I don’t often dig my heels in because I think parenting is the ultimate pick your battles kind of job, but I know this is a critical lesson he needs to learn and, for that, I’m not apologizing.

Any suggestions or similar experiences you might want to share?

6 thoughts on “Sorry seems to be the hardest word

  1. I have had similar situations with my daughter. I know when I have brought up a hurtful moment – it usually gets twisted back to – “well you said this” – “that made me say that”. Defense mechanism at it’s finest. I believe they can’t say the words because then they have to own up to the fact that it was hurtful. To hear it out loud is recognizing the truth – ouch for them!!

    Not long after the hurtful words and no apology I find other things come into play. Like doing tasks around the house when not being asked – or watching a little television together. – instead of barricading in the bedroom.

    So I guess lay low – and don’t think to hard on yourself. Things are usually said in the “heat of the moment” and I am sure that somewhere inside of your son – he know’s he was wrong and he is sorry.

  2. He totally has been uber-helpful around the house, Sue. I know that he is making an attempt and appreciate it, but don’t want him to grow up being afraid to say I’m sorry. I’m not ready to give up on an apology! It’s my middle guy and I always think of him as being a lot like me. I had to learn a lot of life lessons on my own, though, because my mother wasn’t really around. I just wish he would get it!!!

    1. I do get what your saying. Especially as he gets older (you are right) it will be harder for him or afraid to say sorry. I know – even as an adult – sometimes foolish pride gets in the way – but it’s best to keep communication open – and saying sorry is definitely one of the biggies!!!!
      What did John Lennon say “Love is having to say your sorry All the Time”!!! Oh – I forgot – that’s your little one who loved John Lennon!!!

  3. Oh dear, I fear if he ever could have said “sorry,” it’s become such an issue now that any apology you receive is likely to be an insincere one. Like Sue, I get it – been in that corner with you. Try to remember what you felt when YOU were in HIS corner. Perhaps some wisdom will flow from that memory. Parenting is SUCH hard work. Your efforts speak well of you.

  4. You have to remember you are the adult and parent here. Maybe you hurt his feelings. I bet his friends may have a different perspective on the situation than you.

    1. You’re right, anonymous. It isn’t easy to be a parent or a teenager! I’m just glad that he and I are able to talk and work through things. I hated missing his LAX games that day!

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