I’ve never been a big fan of saying sorry.
I find it awkward.
I’d much prefer to be right.
But a little over three years ago, I had a kid, and a few before that moved in with a guy—and neither of them, it turns out, agree that I am right quite as often as I think I am.
Family life is humbling, to say the least, slowly but surely teaching me the power of an apology.
Like this morning, when I’d felt rushed and overwhelmed trying to cut my daughter’s pancake before the next one burned in the pan, make a lunchbox, unpack the dishwasher, and be at least a little bit present for the simultaneous conversation I was having with my partner.
It was all a bit much. Especially because I hadn’t yet had “My Time.”
The precious time that I carve out for myself by getting up at five o’clock in the goddamn morning each and every day to sit in meditation. To light the lamp and ring the bells and align myself with the love and peace that I know to be a much more accurate description for who I am than the grumpy cow I was being on this particular day.
I’d missed it, and so I felt off—rushed and uncentered and, if I’m completely honest, a bit pissed at the people for whom I’d had to miss it.
I was picky and antagonistic, dragging up minor indiscretions from the past as ammo for my cranky mood (“I can’t believe you served the whole tub of organic coconut yoghurt to our omnivorous friends, while there was a litre of dairy yoghurt there that we don’t eat!!”).
Luckily, I caught myself quite quickly, turned to my man, gulped, and said, “Hey, I’m sorry. Can we please start again?”
Starting again is something that our three-year-old taught us.
When we’re funky, and irritated, and annoying one another, calling for a restart is literally that—a way of saying, “Stop! Surely we can do better than this? Let’s start again.”
And so we do, even going so far as to walk out of a room and walk in again, saying the thing we’d said rudely or meanly a moment before, rephrased to be kind and clear. It becomes a game, which is much more fun than a fight, and can change the mood in minutes.
Luckily, because being a parent is a pretty tough gig, you’re almost certain to fail at it to some degree or other. Add to that any kind of striving for perfection, and you’re doomed.
This hit me quite hard in the beginning, and I felt so sad and ashamed for the regularity of squabbling that went down in our house. I had hoped to set a much better example.
But my partner and I are quite fiery. We’re quick to react (to each other, at least). And whilst we’re definitely working on it, we’ve still got quite a way to go.
But you know what else?
We’re also really good at saying sorry. And so is our daughter!
I figure that if we can’t quite yet teach her the art of perfectly equanimous response to potentially triggering words or actions, then at least we can teach her the art of repair. To admit when she knows she’s been wrong or unkind, and say sorry.
And I put that down to one miraculous and yet oh-so-simple habit that we each do (almost) every day:
The daily habit of checking in, resting a while each morning in our natural great peace, shows us so quickly when our thoughts, words, or actions are out of alignment with that.
It feels yuck. You know you’re being a jerk.
So much so that peace actually starts to feel better than being right. And all of a sudden you hear yourself say, “Hey, I’m sorry. Can we please start again?”