My mother never could say she was sorry. I think she saw it as a sign of weakness, as if an apology would confirm her I-am-a-lousy-parent-fears. Or perhaps it fell into her generation’s value: that a parent was always right.
My father on the other hand (interestingly of the same generation) would throw a fit about something sending us all scattering only to come back an hour later, tail between his legs, flowers in hand, spouting apologetic words.
When I was very young my father’s behavior bothered me. I remember wondering to my mother, “Why doesn’t he just control his anger and then he wouldn’t have to come home with flowers?” But as I aged, it was my mother’s silence after a clear parental-overstep that bothered me more, and left me vowing to remember to say I was sorry to my own children when appropriate.
Many years later, a mother myself and ranting in appropriately at something our first daughter did, I swallowed my pride, calmed my over-wrought nerves, and reached out over the chasm I saw spreading between us and said “Mommy is sorry, it was inappropriate to yell like that, and I am sorry.”
Since then I have strived to sincerely apologize when necessary. It might be when I yell about something, or after a heated discussion with my teenager about something she sees one way and I see another, or if I fail to follow through on my end of a “deal”.
It is not an excuse and I often remind them of that as part of my apology. Rather, it is a recognition by me that I was wrong in my behavior. On occasion l also pledge to work harder not to make the same mistake again.
And lest Dr. Dobson blast me for kowtowing to my children’s emotions rather than parenting them, I will add: I expect the same back from my children.
And I believe that my behavior, like my father’s before me, sends them a very important message: No one is perfect. Indeed, as much as we try we will never be perfect. God just didn’t make us this way and the sooner we realize this the sooner we can move forward in our parent-child (and other) relationships.