Synchronicity – this week I read a children’s novel and listened to a podcast about the art of the apology. Actually, most of the time it’s not an art, it’s an awkward, sometimes heartfelt, often nervous bumbling through the spoken word.
Rebecca Stead’s latest book, The list of things that will not change, is just as good as all her previous novels. Twelve-year-old Bea is looking back over the summer when she was ten, when she is about to have a new sister because her dad is marrying again and his new husband has a daughter. Only child Bea thinks this will be everything she’s ever wanted – now she’ll have a mum, two dads and a sister. But not everyone is open to gay marriage and Bea will revisit some of the mistakes she made in order to resolve or move on from old friendships.
I think I adore Brene Brown as much as I do Rebecca Stead! Brene has a new podcast called ‘Unlocking Us’. Her latest episode is with Harriet Lerner about how to apologise. Harriet Lerner is a psychologist and writer with a great sense of humour – her story about being shamed publicly for eating too much cheese at a function made me laugh.
Lerner tells us to leave out the word ‘but’ in our apology. ‘I’m sorry I forgot your birthday but it’s been crazy around here.’ Any apology with a ‘but’ in it isn’t an apology.
Stead gives Bea a few apologies. Bea writes a note to the girl she sits next to in class.
Dear Carolyn, I’m really, REALLY sorry that I bashed your nose in the lunchroom. You hurt my feelings and made me angry two times this week. You laughed at Jesse during the colonial breakfast. And then today you said I would never have a real sister. That’s a sore spot, because I always wanted one more than anything. I was seeing red. But I shouldn’t have hurt you. I hope your nose is okay.
Also, I forgive you for stabbing me with a pencil in second grade. Bea.
A pretty decent apology, even if it does have a ‘but’ in it!
I think it’s tricky to be a child when an adult shames you. Often the focus is on the child lashing out, as provoked by the subtle shaming language from an adult. When Bea doesn’t behave so well at a ten-year-old party, her mother is told to buy a book as ‘this kind of behaviour doesn’t usually get better on its own.’ Ouch!
The list of things that will not change is a wonderful read for 9-12 year-olds, and Brene Brown’s podcast is essential listening for all adults. There’s not many of us who go through life without needing to apologise.