My Apologies

Last spring, my son and I went to a baseball game with friends to celebrate their son’s birthday. We had a great time, mixing cheering for the home team with ballpark food and catching up. Our Phillies won in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning, which the birthday boy thought was an amazing present from the team.

After the game, I texted to thank them for inviting us. As we chatted, our friend included an apology for his son’s relentlessness, which, during the game, I took as enthusiasm and excitement for the experience. Instinctively, I responded by telling him that he should never apologize for his son and assured him that we had fun and that it was a delight to be a part of his son’s special day.

I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot since then.

We’re fortunate to have people in his life who know our son and appreciate him for who he is. These include the teachers at his school, for example, and the doctors, nurses, therapists, and other healthcare providers with whom we interact regularly. They see and accept him, and they don’t make him feel like he needs to apologize for being himself. It includes friends who have children with similar conditions and other friends who have taken the time to get to know him.

But how many times have I apologized for my son to the outside world, whether it’s his inability to know when to stop telling a joke, his impulsiveness, or his awkwardness? Where is the line between apologizing for an act and apologizing for a person? Is there even a line? What if you can’t separate the actions from the person or the condition?

I apologize when he doesn’t understand something other kids do, when he’s unaware of the world around him, or when he’s too tired to function. Even without the special circumstances, I feel like I’m the type of person who would apologize for him doing things or just being a kid because the expectations I often set are based on how I think he should be, what society expects him to be, or, also unfairly, what an adult is expected to do.

Whether it’s because he sees me do it or not, I have noticed that my son apologizes a lot, too. In some cases, it’s justified to apologize for an action that impacts a person around him. Other times, he’s apologizing for something he can’t control or a symptom of his condition, like his struggle with his memory or his attention. Those are the times when the apologies can bleed into his identity and how he feels about himself, which is what I am desperately trying to avoid.

Because we never want him to feel like he needs to apologize for who he is.


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