You don’t need to say you’re sorry (unless you really have to)
So a couple of weeks ago I was trying to ferry my brood home after a trip to the park.
As we were nearing our house, and I’m trying to move at a reasonable pace so I can keep eyes on all three of them at once, I saw a woman coming towards us in the other direction. She was walking with her toddler son, who couldn’t have been more than 16 months old.
He was clearly so happy to be free of the restraint of his buggy that he was stopping to look at absolutely everything.
They past my eldest so first. Then, as they approached me, the little boy stopped again to admire a bland-looking pebble on the pavement.
By this time, my eldest had turned the corner and was completely out of my line of vision. The toddler’s mother must have clocked the mild look of panic on my face because she instantly pulled her son away and uttered ‘Oh I’m so sorry’ as she hurried away.
But as I walked away to catch up with my son, I started thinking. She didn’t really need to apologise.
She hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Neither had the little boy
They had as much right to right to be there as we did.
It got me thinking: how many times have I apologised to other people for no real reason?
Hundreds? Thousands? All I know is it’s too many to count.
I know that we can’t help it. Over-apologising is a quintessential British trait. But have we ever stopped to think about why we do it?
And have we ever thought about the impact that our constant use of the word ‘sorry’ might have on our children?
We know so much more about child development than we did a century ago. Our schools have policies and initiatives to promote mental health and wellbeing. We know that children thrive when they are given the freedom to express themselves.
Yet society as a whole still seems to be holding on to that outdated Victorian-era view that children should be seen and not heard.
The moment our children do anything that might raise an eyebrow - even something as innocent as blocking a path to study a boring bit of gravel - we feel the need to apologise on their behalf.
Of course we need to take responsibility for our children’s actions. But does it really benefit anyone if we micro manage their behaviour to conform to a bygone belief system?
Would it not be better if we gave our children the chance to explore the the world around them without the constant worry that they might be causing a passerby a bit of inconvenience?
I’ve decided that I’m done with all this unnecessary apologising. I’m going to stop worrying when they’re being too loud, or walking too slowly. I’m going to let them just be.
Because our little ones have got as much right to be on this planet as everyone else. And we shouldn’t need to apologise for that.