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When I must say “I’m sorry,” my tendency is to over-expand on those two words.
I want to explain myself and have my feelings acknowledged. And when it comes to saying “I’m sorry” to my daughter, there are a few times I wondered if an apology would strike the wrong tone.
A recent Instagram post refocused me on the apology itself. It read: "Normalize apologizing to your children."
It was from Bob the Drag Queen, in a reflection on negative "coming out" experiences.
"If your child ever came out to you as queer, and your response was, 'As long as you don't want to be a woman or transition or be a man' or something like that, go and apologize right now -- literally right now," they added in an accompanying video.
Bob is a host of HBO's "We're Here," in which a trio of famed drag queens travel to small U.S. communities. In each episode, they produce a drag show featuring local people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and/or non-binary as well as allies and family members. A few people participate because they want to publicly support a loved one after previous negativity or indifference.
Each episode concludes with the drag show, which embodies the titular rallying cry: "We're here. We're queer. Get used to it."
While I haven’t had experiences like Bob describes, the post caused me to examine my own feelings about parent to child apologies. And with that said, a parent’s ability to react badly to information isn’t isolated to one or two topics.
In my case, Bob’s post made me consider times I apologized for disagreeing with my daughter’s feelings and beliefs. Yes, I apologized quickly and without prompting. However, I now want to ensure she viewed my readiness to acknowledge and make amends as normal and compulsory.
The post also caused me to acknowledge that adults sometimes treat children as if they aren’t entitled to equal consideration. That is, adult status carries weight, right up to the unapologetic last word. It makes fairness somewhat arbitrary and vague.
Another one of the many problems that come from unqualified respect of elders is that roles change with context. In Bob’s example, even an adult who comes out to parents could be dismissed like a naïve, inexperienced novice.
My own experience as someone’s child informs my thoughts on assigning vs. claiming identity.
I’m full of input for my daughter, and I’m careful to avoid edicts and directives.
A month before my daughter’s birth, I gave a presentation on biracial identity to university faculty and administrators.
During questions an attendee asked, “What’s your daughter going to say she is?”
I explained the importance of being able make a choice based on her preferences. The inquirer asked again and added, “What box will she check if she’s only allowed to check one?”
This went on for several minutes. Growing up, I didn’t lack for unsolicited input on my own identity. Add that strangers still ask things like “what are you” and follow my response with skepticism.
I realized that I simultaneously hoped my child would choose an accurate option and that it would align with my perspective. I admitted this to the crowd, noting I’d affirm her choice.
After nearly 18 years, I stand by this and have similar beliefs about college choice, extracurriculars and future plans.
Karris Golden is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org