Over the weekend something happened. I did something I regretted. It was one of those “jokes” that isn’t funny. One of those things that afterwards you wonder why you ever thought that was even remotely funny, because it wasn’t. Instead it was hurtful and nobody thought it humorous. I immediately apologized, but my apology wasn’t enough to make the hurt disappear. Apologies are like that. They’re certainly better than nothing, but they don’t erase the regrettable action. So there I was holding this child who was understandably upset because I did something without thinking or stopping to ask myself “is this a good idea?” “If someone did this to you, would you think it funny?” I felt terrible. The child felt terrible, but allowed me to tell them how sorry I was. They allowed me to hold them. They allowed me to witness their upset and it took everything in me to stop talking, to give them the space to feel their feelings without tramping all over them with words.
“Aw….” Emma said as she embraced the child. “_____’s upset,” Emma said, looking at me with concern. “_____’s sad. He wants to go to Sydney’s playground.” Emma was doing her best to make sense of the situation, citing a playground long ago closed.
“No, that’s not it, Em. I hurt ____’s feelings and….” I looked over at Richard. “Well I shouldn’t have done that,” I finished.
“Aw….” Emma said again, wrapping her arms more tightly around the other child’s torso. “It’s okay. Take a deep breath.”
“I’m okay. Thanks Emma,” the child said.
“Aw…” Em continued. “Here. Take a deep breath… It’s okay.” Em looked over at me and said, “Then time to do yoga!”
It was one of those moments. A moment where there are lots of feelings, lots of different emotions. Sorrow and remorse for doing something hurtful to another person. Proud of my daughter for being so kind. Concern for the hurt person’s feelings. It was one of those moments when you know you’re never going to do it all beautifully or elegantly or even well, but that you, like everyone else on this earth does things you wish you hadn’t and you can sit with that and hopefully learn from it so you don’t repeat it.
I watched Em hugging this child. I watched this child feeling their feelings and I knew the biggest apology I could give was not one of words, but of honoring and respecting their feelings, without trying to undo or change or make light of it. I know, once I make a mistake, I must not make more mistakes in an attempt to cover up the original one. Once I make a mistake I have to own it. I have to acknowledge the other’s feelings and respect them enough to give them space and the time they need to process, while being there if they want or need me to be.
As a friend of mine said – if you don’t want someone to have bad memories of you, don’t do things to give them any.
Nic reading to Em – January, 2013
((hugs)) all around. IMHO one always makes mistakes; it’s how the mistakes are handled that teaches us all how to move forward best.
Words of wisdom! 🙂
Beautiful. We all make mistakes it’s what we do with them that counts.
I love reading your blog, Ariane. It often reminds me of happenings in my own life, with my own daughter. This post in particular brings to mind a time when I hurt my daughter Mia’s feelings and she proceeded to say “It’s okay Mia. It’s okay. We can fix it.” until she was able to process the hurt and move on – which she did freely. Her love, kindness and fast forgiveness to me, the person that hurt her, was shocking. I have seen many “typical” children hold grudges, be rude and downright nasty back. Your daughter Em, and my daughter, Mia, have once again proven to me that Autistics are the kindest, most generous and loving type of people out there. It’s too bad that all of humanity wasn’t as loving and forgiving as them. The world would be a much more pleasant place.
xoxo – thanks for writing!!
Thanks for sharing this, your Mia sounds wonderful! Both my kids are very forgiving. I’m so grateful to them for that.
I agree absolutely with kimmytheriault. We all make mistakes and hurt someone’s feelings. That’s why to me one of the most meaningful religious holy days is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, when you ask everyone’s forgiveness whom you hurt knowingly or even unwittingly and you forgive everyone who may have “stepped on your toes”.
I’m not Jewish, but Yom Kippur to me is a truly holy day. To Emma every day seems to be Yom Kippur…..
Sending you love, Mom!
Beautiful! I always learn from you and Em!
*Hugs* to you dear friend!
May I inquire about the string? I have seen it and heard reference to it but was curious as to it’s function. I have theories but would love to know what it actually represents.
I actually am not sure. I believe it calms Em and helps her concentrate. It began as her “school string” and helped enormously in transitioning her to her new school this past fall.
We all say/do hurtful things at one time or another, and hurtful things will be said/done to us because people are human. Apologizing when we are wrong and forgiveness when we are wronged are the key to healing the wrong. Yea for you for apologizing and yea for Emma for expressing empathy towards this child. Who said people with autism don’t have feelings for other people? Emma showed that people with autism feel just like everyone else; some just have difficulty showing their concern and empathy. I am sure you told Emma how proud you were of her being so sensitive to her friend’s feelings. BTW, Kim is home from the hospital and doing well. Praise God! Thanks for your sweet comments of support.
Oh Marilyn, I’m so pleased to hear Kim is home. Please send her my love!
You taught the child (and Emma) that adults can and should acknowledge and apologize for mistakes. Adults caught making mistakes is probably more valuable than you realize.
Obviously, the ideal is that someone’s feelings aren’t hurt in the process, but it’s important nonetheless.
I’ve certainly hurt feelings in the past by not understanding the difference between what I meant and what the other person perceived. It’s a standard error that is probably more frequent due to being autistic. Learning how to apologize and explain myself was key both for my relationship with whoever I accidentally hurt, and also for my own understanding as to /why/ they are hurt.
You’re modelling behavior for Emma that is extremely helpful.
hi Ren, it’s good to hear from you! Thanks for this comment.
You know, Ariane, that’s one of the traits I like about you the most, and part of the reason I suspect we get along so well. I’m the first to admit when I make a mistake, too. It takes way too much effort to defend yourself when you’re clearly in the wrong. Suck it up, own it, make amends, and move on. It makes life alot easier.
In other news, Marisa HATES the new brace she’s supposed to wear. It’s awful, the poor thing. They said they’d like to see her in it 23 hours a day within the next few weeks….yeah, that ain’t happening. I’ll do my best but I’m not going to make my poor girl miserable. I’d rather see her have a one time surgery that will improve things dramatically than have to wear something uncomfortable for years that will only keep the status quo. But, I’m not a doc…not my call.
Speaking of docs, we saw Dr. I Usually Want to Punch in the Face today as well. We talked about her meds, decided to keep her on the Risperdal since she’s fairly stable again, and he wrote her a letter for her school file explaining her numerous diagnoses and subsequent need for many doctor and therapy appointments. I’ve gotten two notes this school year so far about her absences! Having this on file should help. It shall henceforth in my mind be deemed the “OMG, STFU” letter!
I might try giving you a call later in the week. Take care, meanwhile!
Oh Angie. You know I love hearing from you! I’m sorry Risa hates the brace, but honestly who wouldn’t? I think we should ALL have a “OMG, STFU” letter handy, you just never know when you might need it! 😀
Yeah, Hallmark doesn’t make a card for that, do they? 😉 Maybe we should start our own company….can you imagine? We could have “OMG, STFU” letters for schools, doctors, parents, siblings, frenemies, the possibilites are endless! How has no one thought this up before? 🙂
On another note, I just noticed the pic of the “airplane chairs” in your FB post, and I have to ask you more about those chairs! (You know I’m enrolled in Antique school, so now you gotta tell me!) Are they old, or new? They’ve obviously been painted…what more can you tell me about them? (If I sound like an appraiser, it’s because I’m becoming certified to be one!) 😉
I inherited those chairs from my grandmother. I don’t know how old they are, but I believe they were Spanish. Most of the gold gilding has rubbed off over the years and we’ve had to have the seats rewoven a couple of times.. I wish I could give you more information, that’s all I’ve got. Would love to know more if you know anything! 😀