When You Make A Mistake, Apologize

I made a mistake when my daughter was a little girl and to this day, it haunts me. This post is a little bit confession, a little bit about owning up to mistakes, and a little bit more that I will share with you at the end. Now I didn’t do anything that scarred her for life (I hope) but I imposed my outdated beliefs on her at a time when she really didn’t understand the why and I didn’t really understand the consequences of my beliefs.

So first, I made a mistake in my parenting when my daughters were young and this is an apology to my daughter. But like I said, this post is deeper than that.

Here’s the story. My youngest daughter went to a birthday party when she was about four or five and I brought my oldest daughter, (who was seven or eight at the time) with me to pick her up after the party. We got there early, and the mother graciously invited us in so my oldest daughter could watch the magic show and participate in the end of the birthday festivities, such as cake and punch. When the party was over, goodie bags were handed out to all the kids in attendance. Obviously, my oldest daughter didn’t get one as she wasn’t an invited guest. So my daughter, in all her innocence and brave confidence, asked if she could have a goodie bag too.

In that moment, time stood still for me. I was mortified. A little bit horrified, and a little bit angry. I’m a girl from the south who was probably brought up with more than my fair share of polite etiquette and the rules for girls versus the rules for boys were ingrained in my beliefs and firmly planted in my parenting style at the time. I am ashamed to admit that I probably thought that girls should be polite and that boys will kind of be boys, a little rowdy at times. I feel pretty certain that if I had had a son, I would have treated this incident entirely differently.

I viewed my daughter’s behavior as rude, maybe even a bit greedy. She needed to realize the effort the mother had put into this party, meticulously anticipating and assembling a gift bag for each of the children who rsvp’d. She needed to be appreciative that she had even gotten to participate in the festivities of fun and cake and punch!  And my overwhelming thought at the time was, how dare she ask.

My only redeeming quality during this entire episode was to not make a huge deal out of the request at the party, and no, there weren’t enough gift bags except for the invited children, so I probably said she could share with the younger sister. I don’t really remember except that I got out of there as fast as I could. Back home though, I stewed and steamed and tried to think of a proper punishment. Ultimately, I made her write a five or six page apology to the mother of the birthday child.  It was a big deal.

NOW, I’m a little wiser, I hope, and instead of saying “How dare she ask”, I would say, “Why wouldn’t she ask?”

We should be teaching our daughters to ASK FOR WHAT THEY WANT. We should be teaching them that there is a difference between being greedy and deserving. If they are too afraid to ask for raises, and rights, and the sale, and happiness, they will never experience all that life has to offer and gain the confidence to claim what is rightfully theirs to have.

Obviously, I could have handled this a million ways better. Since that time, I’ve tried to make amends by teaching my girls to believe in what they want, to ask for they want, to go after what they want, and to fight for what they want.

So this post is full of lessons, for life and business.

Be honest with yourself. When you make a mistake, apologize. This is to your customers, children, husband, wives, partners, friends, or even strangers.

And think about the messages we are sending to our children. I was inspired to write this post after watching the live stream video featuring Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In.” who talked specifically about what we are teaching our children, among other things. That’s a whole other story, but she got me to thinking. Teach our children to ask and go after their dreams, regardless if they are male or female. Teach them to respect and care about people and to never take advantage. Teach them well, and the world will reap the benefits.

xo, jan

Jan McCarthyComment