Sunday, May 17, 2009

Don't say it...

When I was starting out, I landed a job in an after school program helping kids out, keeping an eye on them, teaching a bit, and generally having a lot of laughs. Which is good, 'cause the pay stunk. We used to make extra snacks for the kids, in the hopes there would be leftovers and we'd have something for dinner.

At one of our requisite trainings on dealing with kids and conflict, the director of the program mentioned she didn't want us to ask the kids to say 'sorry' if they hurt another child's feelings. At the time, I thought she was wildly out of touch, a do-gooder, a liberal. But her point was simple and straightforward. If a kid just says sorry, what really have they done to fix their error? They had to address the problem they caused directly. Actions, not words.

Years later, I have come to believe she was -- is -- absolutely right. The word 'sorry' is a cheap out, junk food, a distraction. Too many people -- famous or not -- seem to think saying you are sorry means anything. On the famous side, take Manny Ramirez as an example. Suspended for 50 games for using juice, he was expected to say sorry to his teammates. Not even to the fans, mind you, not that it would matter. He makes millions of millions, screws his team, and his teammates are supposed to listen to an apology? Oh, sure, he's gonna cough up 7 million while he sits by the pool, but when he comes back, he'll start collecting the 20+ million owed to him. If he were sorry, he'd go to every game and take tickets at the turnstile, maybe lug some popcorn or beers to the fans (...and pay for it, too), and take turns washing the team's jockstraps. Maybe he is sorry, but what I'd like is to see him do something to fix the mess he caused.

It's not the rich and shameless that worry me, though. It's us regular folks. My kids, as an example. Our daughter, bless her kind soul, leaves her junk all over the house. When I'm tripping all over it, the first thing out of her mouth is "I'm sorry, Dad." I'm not interested in how she feels about me tripping or disrespecting the rest of the family, but I'm very interested in her picking her stuff up. It's simple, really. Don't say 'sorry' because it doesn't do a whole lot. Instead, I'm trying to teach her to pick up before it is a problem, and when she forgets, I'm really hoping she'll start saying "I'll get it picked up now."

To be honest, I'm fighting a losing battle. But I love long odds, so I'll keep chipping away. The next time my daughter leaves her cleats in the kitchen and I call her out on it, I'd be perfectly happy if she just spoke the truth. "Dad, I'm not sorry. My feet were hot and I took off my shoes immediately upon entering the house. Then I saw the puppy and forgot all about the shoes. My feet feel better and, boy, the puppy really is cute." Oh, if she then puts her cleats away, that would be cool, too.


  1. I can't push the putting things away since I'm the absolute worst at doing that.

    Sometimes "sorry" is good though. My son got hurt the other day - scraped his knee - and my daughter, who had nothing to do with the injury (and is almost 3) said sorry to him. Huh? How did she know? I jumped on the opportunity to explain how you can say you are sorry someone got hurt even if you didn't cause the hurt. I think it was a good lesson for the almost 6yr old...

  2. I've taught my kids to say sorry for what they do, especially on the play ground, as much for the other parents who expect it when their child is not the one messing up... but then I expect them to follow it up with, "I was trying to be friends with you but then I got too rough. Can we be friends and I'll work on being gentle?"
    My 3 year old has gotten some very surprised reactions from it, and some rejections... which I use to explain to him that he may not always be forgiven, but it also teaches him to be responsible for his actions and acknowledge when he messes up.
    I get what you mean about celebrities and their ridiculous apologies, but I'm also amazed at how few people know how to apologize even when they know they are in the wrong.
    The snide "Sorry" with a roll of the eyes - yeah. Who needs it?!


Please don't take me too seriously.