How Not To Apologize
I’m not much of a political animal; I vote and I keep somewhat current with the issues of the day, but my husband cares a lot more than I do. The humorist Calvin Trillin once wrote that he was keeping track of the Middle East as a birthday present for his wife.
This is the gift Jeff gives me every day.
But even the most indifferent simply cannot avoid the on-going circus of Rob Ford’s mayoral tenure. We don’t want our kids to grow up to be like him (Toronto Mike’s post about Ford-watching and Fatherhood) We’re doing damage control, prepping for dinner time with our kids and the inevitable questions like it’s a natural disaster (Don’t miss Rebecca Keenan’s brilliant post on talking to kids ‘About Our Crack Mayor’).
On Sunday I sat glued to the AM radio, helping my kid with lunch and occasionally yelling back. I still don’t feel like I know enough to weigh in on the broader implications of what’s been revealed this week, but I feel that as a parent right now is the perfect teaching moment to take my kids through how not to make an apology.
Step One: Be Vague
My eldest son Blake will see that I’m mad, and start apologizing. Rob Ford did the same on Sunday, opening with a long rambling non-specific apology. We were nearly an hour and a half into the radio show before anyone asked Rob Ford what exactly he was apologizing for.
Step Two: Focus On What’s Past
When pressed Ford said that he was sorry for being drunk on the Danforth. This is the equivalent of my son Sage apologizing today because he hid Blake’s shoes during our summer vacation and lied about it. We’re done with that; let’s deal with today’s issue.
Step Three: Blame Others
Ford blames his political opponents for making him look bad. My kids don’t have entrenched enemies so they just blame each other for “starting it.” This is Blake’s favourite defense. Mr. Ford, just because someone is annoying doesn’t give you permission to do anything you want.
Step Four: Lose Yourself in the Crowd
On his weekly radio show, Doug Ford made a number of statements about “putting politicians under the microscope” and reminding the listeners that no one is without sin. When I ask my high school students to stop talking, they ask why I’m not talking to someone else, because “everyone is talking.” Spreading the blame around is a great way to avoid responsibility. It’s also a great way to delay a change in your own behaviour.
Step Five: Point Out All The Other Times You Didn’t Screw Up
I heard a lot about the fiscal record of Rob Ford Sunday. Unbelievably, we heard more about it today — right after he admitted to smoking crack. When I bust Blake for reading past his bedtime, he likes to remind me that he did all his homework. A right and a wrong don’t cancel each other out, Rob Ford; what are you teaching your kids?
After awhile, I didn’t care about crack — and by the time he admitted it it was almost beside the point. I don’t care to hear more about his fiscal record. I just wanted him to go to his room for an hour, so I could calm down.
I don’t think he’s a bad influence because of his own criminal activity or that he keeps some questionable company. I think he’s a bad influence because he’s a liar, and an unrepetant one. He’s the biggest kid of all and again this afternoon he got away with being a faker.
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For the record, Mr. Ford, this is how you apologize:
1. Admit to something specific and recent being wrong, and:
2. Admit that you did it.
3. Say you’re sorry and mean it.
4. Say what you’re gonna do about it
Aleta Fera fighting a losing culture war over the idea that “my bad” is not an apology. More at Further Adventures of Rocketbride.