Is it time to stop apologising for our children's behaviour?

Marie Claire Dorking
Is it time to stope apologising for our children's behaviour? [Photo: Getty]
Is it time to stop apologising for our children’s behaviour? [Photo: Getty]

Let me start by explaining that I’m an apologiser. If someone crashes into me in the street, it’s me who says sorry. When I end up in one of those awkward ‘you go, no you go’ stand-offs with a stranger, despite the fact it’s nobody’s fault, I’m the first to offer my humble apologies for getting in their way. It’s fair to say the S-word is never far from tripping off my tongue.

I had hoped I might get over my ‘sorry’ addiction when I became a parent. Surely, motherhood could cure me of my loose-lipped apologies, but somehow having children (twins) has made me up my sorry game even more. These days, I find myself apologising for three people.

Just yesterday I found myself mumbling a quick apology as one of my kids went hurtling past a woman on their scooter, threatening to, but not quite putting her off her commute-to-work stride.

You can trace this oversized sorry-ness back to when the twins were babies. If they cried when they were plonked in the arms of a friend, I apologised for the fact they were teething/shy/hungry. If they threw a tantrum I not only let the lookers-on know how sorry I was with my apologetic expression, I offered a spoken “tired” explanation too.

But never was my urge to apologise greater than when we took the twins on a plane. “Apologies in advance to the passengers sitting next to us,” my Facebook post read as I announced we were taking two tiny four-month old twin terrors on a plane to the Med.

So worried was I that our babies, might actually behave like babies and, shock horror, cry I was pre-empting an apology before one even needed to be given.

Turns out I’m not the only parent who feels the need to pre-pologise for their children’s potential ‘bad’ behaviour. Last year, a story went viral about parents handing out goody bags to their fellow passsengers on a flight.

The ‘care package’ contained some ear plugs, chocolate and various other treats alongside a sweet note apologising for the possibility that their own toddler twins might cry on the plane journey.

“Hello! Our names are Ashley & Abby,” an accompanying note inside the bags read. “We’re twins, we just turned 18 months and this is our first time on an airplane!”

“We are heading to FL [Florida] to see Grandma & Grandpa, and Mommy & Daddy said something about a mouse. We’ll try to keep our cool, but in case we decide to get crazy, we’ve provided a sweet treat and some earplugs for your enjoyment. Thank you for understanding and enjoy your flight!”

Bad behaviour or just kids being kids? [Photo: Getty]
Bad behaviour or just kids being kids? [Photo: Getty]

Since then, the whole handing out bribes treats thing by way of an apology for any potential tricky kiddy behaviour has become something of a viral trend.

I have to admit when I first heard that’s what parents of travelling babies were doing I gave myself a metaphorical kick for not thinking of doing the same the first few times I took my own twins on a packed plane.

It’s a nice gesture right? Being so concerned about your fellow passengers that you’re prepared to mollify them with a present, you know just in case your kids kick off.

But would it be so bad if they did? Aren’t babies supposed to, you know, cry. And poop, and vom? Just like toddlers have tantrums and children whinge when they run out of Haribos, the iPad runs out of charge, they don’t get their own way. But isn’t it just kids being kids? In which case, why do we feel the need to apologise for it?

The thing about these goody bags is they send a message that we should be saying sorry sort of for our children’s mere existence.

If my child cries, whines, throws a tantrum, it may well annoy you (it will sure as heck annoy me), but there are plenty of things grown adults do that are irritating and they certainly don’t feel the need to go around apologising for them. Let alone handing out Instagram-worthy gifts by way of a preemptive ‘sorry.’

Often the most stressful part of being a parent, isn’t the very public tantrums, screaming fits on the bus or the inevitable poonami when you’ve just used up your last nappy, it’s the worrying about how it will be perceived by everyone else. Hence, the need to issue apologies in advance.

Social media certainly hasn’t helped. Barely a day goes by when a parent isn’t shamed on Instagram or Facebook about their child’s behaviour. So maybe, living in fear of judgement about our parenting skills is leading to an over-reliance on the S-word?

The pressure to be a perfect parent has to have played a role too. Perhaps we’re just too worried about letting that Insta-mask slip to reveal a real yet flawed family life, that we hope a hastily issued apology might quickly restore the filter?

Should we stop saying sorry and start just accepting that kids will be kids? [Photo: Getty]
Should we stop saying sorry and start just accepting that kids will be kids? [Photo: Getty]

But is it time to quit our overuse of the word sorry? Should we just stop apologising for our kids age-appropriate behaviour?

Sure if its your child throwing themselves on the floor in the fruit and veg aisle, or continuously bawling on a packed plane, you’re going to feel flustered about it. It is never a pleasant, easy-to-handle feeling and you’ll do anything in your power to avoid it (eh Ryan Reynolds?). But, here’s the thing, you can’t. Because it’s all part and parcel of being a parent.

And the solution isn’t to apologise for it or pre-pologise by way of treat bags, the solution is to just deal with the situation as best you can, accept it and move on.

So the next time one of my kids whizzes past you on their scooter and accidentally grazes your coat or has a monumental meltdown at the checkout, don’t expect me to apologise for it.

I probably am sorry, I’m just trying to wean myself off the S-word.

Baby steps and all that.

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