I’m going to open with a short discussion Ezra and I had recently… we had an incident where an adult’s conduct was less than stellar in front of Ezra. If my children get out of line, I expect them to apologize and make things right. I expect that from adults as well. Kids are more likely than adults to handle that gracefully, in my experience. In this instance, said adult assured me he would apologize to Ezra.
Me- “So it’s all cool now, Buddy? Did he apologize?”
Ezra- “Well… he didn’t actually say he’s sorry, but he is. His voice and his eyes and how he has acted the past couple of days all say he’s sorry. He just is a person who can’t actually say it. He wants to, but he just can’t. But I know he’s sorry, and that’s what matters, so it’s all ok.”
Try to picture me hanging my head in humility as I listened to Ezra say all that.
Now, normally, an adult who 1) got out of line with my son, then 2) did not follow through on his promise to apologize, would be in for a most unpleasant visit from me. I may be ‘old school’ in too many ways, but I firmly believe that both words and actions are equally important. For me, an apology without an apology is not an apology. Clearly, my son has much to teach me.
So I left it alone. Ezra’s relationship with this adult is fine and dandy. They still respect each other a great deal, in fact I dare say even more now than before said incident. And the best part- I still respect this person even though the story above did not at all end the way I insisted that it would. I’m still a bit disappointed… I still believe someone should follow through on their promise to do a thing, regardless of what said thing is. But I’m also a little wiser now.
Would you believe that’s not the end of this story? Not just yet…
Well, last week I had an incident of my own where an adult failed me, phenomenally, on a matter of great importance. Again. I’m truly not a patient person at all, but after 5 or 11 failures, I’m not very constructive either. Things deteriorated badly. Badly. I completely gave up on this person and the entire situation. And to make matters worse, this person would not admit to the failing in spite of it being indisputable. Yet I still had to find a way to get things accomplished. I was at a dead end.
Then, something happened that changed the entire course of coming events. This person approached me and said, “I hope we can find another way to make that work.” Normally, I’d have walked away because I have always assumed that a person who will not admit fault is also not likely to achieve much success with any recovery plan. Time will tell on that part. What I wanted to write about today, though, is how I ‘saw’ this person as that conversation unfolded.
Immediately as he approached me, I could see regret and trepidation in his eyes and body language. His voice was sincere and he was very clearly not proud of how badly things had deteriorated. He was not verbally apologetic, but his entire demeanor was very much… sorry. If not for Ezra’s words of wisdom so recently, I would have missed that entire ‘tell’ and dismissed him the moment his opening sentence dodged his previous failing. I let it all slide. We had a very productive conversation, and we may just yet work things out.
All because Ezra showed me a door I’d never gone through on my own. Good job, Buddy. You’re a better man than I am. Somewhere quietly in the background I could also hear Sophie’s voice inside my head saying, “Daddy, if you want to have lots of friends, you’re going to have to be a lot less hot-tempered.” Good job, Baby. The two of you make great coaches!
Now, don’t get me wrong- I’m still a believer in the importance of a sincere apology, and I’ll continue to offer them when I (often) perform in a less than stellar manner. I’m human just like everyone else. But I can also see that the way I hope for people to apologize to me, and the way I do so to and for them, is not the only way people do it. I know he was sorry, and that’s what should matter… according to Ezra.
At Ezra’s commencement ceremony on Friday, the speaker said, “I know your parents and teachers might be frightened to hear this, but you will all be ruling the world soon!”
I’m not frightened at all. I’ll hand over the reins right now. The eyes of a child are magical things.
Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Reins