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