One of our favorite places on Earth…Captiva.
We consider it a blessing that the family in some form has had the opportunity to enjoy the shell-strewn beaches for four decades. Years ago, we made the 21-hour drive with our own little family of six to our island paradise in the Gulf of Mexico every other summer. There, we would soak up two glorious weeks of fun and sun! Everyone is grown up now and while the hubs and I still enjoy this tropical gem nearly every year, the kids and the grands don’t get to go as often. Individual schedules limit availability and honestly, the space will no longer accommodate the whole family. Still it is great when even a part of the gang can join us for a week.
We had the cottage the end of September and first week of October this year. Our girls and their families were able to come the first week. This meant taking the kids out of school, but what a classroom these little grands had on the beach!
There are just so many hands-on experiences southern Florida can offer that the Midwest can’t!
It’s no secret that traveling with children is both a lot of fun and an energy drainer. There is no kick back and relax when we need to be mindful of children’s needs and schedules. Our gang this time included a fearless toddler on whom we kept a sharp eye so he didn’t harm himself in the name of discovery. Our inside quarters were tight for five adults and three kids, so the chaos of everyone’s belongings were also in the mix. Toss in a good sprinkling of whining and fighting between the 5 and 7-year old and it was the perfect setting for some tension and stress.
On top of all this my 7-year old grandson, Max, has had some emotional adjustments to the changes in his life in the past year. He had a baby brother, his parents divorced, he moved from his home into a new place, changed schools and now spends time between two homes, which he says he doesn’t want. He has exhibited some pretty angry outbursts and responses that his mom (our daughter) has taken the brunt of. They are working on ways to get through, but it didn’t get put on vacation just because we were.
And yes, I am getting to the apology piece. It is my part of the story.
We were enjoying the pool one afternoon when Max become angry at his mom, saying that she was mean and that she had tried to choke him. (What this really meant was that she was unaware that he was swimming toward her under water and had turned away before he reached her. He was out of breath when he came up and blamed her. Out of breath + her not being there = choking.) He would NOT drop it, and continued to angrily repeat that she was mean and had tried to choke him, among other things.
I entered the conversation. I wanted to tell him that when I hear him talking to his mother with the tone and words he uses, he is treating my daughter unkindly and that I did not want her treated that way. I added that it hurt her feelings and mine when he spoke that way.
As soon as those last words were out of my mouth I wanted to swallow them.
Because I don’t really believe that children are responsible for adult’s feelings.
Suggesting a child is causing an adult to feel a certain way is giving them power they don’t have and responsibility they cannot handle. Actually, I believe that we are accountable for our own feelings. We get to choose what we think which leads to feeling a certain emotion. Our circumstance does not cause us to feel anything. We “feel” as a direct result of what we are thinking.
Later that evening we hurried to the beach for pictures at sunset. The same grandson was whining and crying over a small scrape on his toe. His mom wanted pictures with her and both her boys, but he was less than cooperative. Frustrated with him and for her, I told him to stop acting like a baby.
There they were again…words spilling out of my mouth!!
Here’s the thing. I detest hearing adults tell children “to stop acting like a baby” and I had just done the same thing!! Those words are not the least bit helpful and I had reduced myself to name-calling, honestly. That doesn’t mean I can’t challenge my grandson to better behavior, but I am absolutely sure that is not the way to do it!
A day later my daughter’s and their families headed for the airport and home. The hubs drove them in and ran a few errands in Ft. Meyers. In his absence I cleaned the cottage, did the laundry and prepared for our second week there. I was exhausted and the emotional reserves were thin. I confess, I was disappointed in myself for my part in those conversations with Max.
The day after we arrived home I apologized to my daughter for the things I said and told her I would apologize to Max when I saw him. She was very gracious and acknowledged the ease at which words often slip out. I felt a bit of relief, but knew I still had one more piece of this journey to make.
That daughter and her sons live about 2 hours away from us. Last weekend, we decided to visit them. I had a moment with Max that I knew would be fleeting if I didn’t capture it. He was walking away from me and I said, “Hey, Max! I want to tell you something!” He kept walking. “Max, I want to apologize to you.” He stopped and turned around. (I found that interesting.) I continued. I recounted our time at the pool and asked if he remembered. He said yes. I told him that I wanted to apologize for saying he hurt my feelings. He looked at me with wide eyes, taking it in. I said, “I do not believe you are responsible for my feelings, I alone, am responsible for the way I feel. Children are not responsible for the way adults feel. While I want you to treat your mother kindly, I am sorry for what I said.” He said, “Okay.”
I followed him into the other room. “Max, there is one more thing I want to apologize for.” He turned and looked at me. “When we were on the beach trying to get pictures, do you remember how you were fussing about your scraped toe?” He affirmed the question. “I told you to stop acting like a baby. I wanted you to not worry about your toe and simply cooperate for the pictures, but I should not have called you a baby. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”
He said yes. We hugged. I told him I loved him. He said he loved me, too.
So, power in the apology? Absolutely! I honestly do not know if my hasty words left my daughter or my grandson upset or unsettled in any way. I don’t know if it left them to deal with their own feelings, the ones for which they are ultimately responsible. I am pretty sure that most children don’t understand owning the responsibility for their feelings unless it is modeled for them.
I do know how I felt when those careless words spilled from my mouth. And I know that when I took responsibility for those words that I could also take responsibility for an apology. Power is the capability of doing or accomplishing something. In this case I used my power to find freedom. My daughter and grandson could have refused to offer me grace. That would have been their choice. My choice was to ask for it, accept their response and free myself to move beyond those moments.
My guess is that my daughter and grandson also benefitted from my apology.
My life is more beautiful for it and I have a strong hunch theirs is, too.
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