How do you apologize without apologizing? /Update with conversation
I have been reading posts from this site for the last 6 months without joining and have found it very useful, but an issue arose the other day with my 13 year old ds that I'm very torn on. I see how vicious some people can get when responding to a method of discipline they don't like. I am ok with you bashing me for what I did, but all I ask in return is in addition to your bashing you offer me a solution on how to address my ds.
A little over 2 years ago when my ds was 11 he did a terrible thing to his disabled grandfather. Apparently his grandfather did not get him the gift he promised him (he simply forgot) so my ds ended up making fun of him for his disability as well as calling him a fxxxing jack ass. Having worked in a nursing home when I was younger I have zero tolerance for disrespecting the elderly and I sure as heck won't tolerate it within my own family.
When I found out what happened I gave my ds a choice on his punishment he could be grounded for 2 weeks with absolutely no privileges whatsoever and he will not leave the house other than go to school or I was going to wash his mouth out with soap, but I warned him if he chose the soap it would not be like when he was little (I did it to him once when he was 4 or 5 and it was literally a drop of soap on his tongue for 2 seconds) and that he would never forget it. Regardless of which he chose he was also going to write a full letter of apology to his grandfather. He chose the soap (I won't lie I knew he would).
I made him stand in the shower with his shirt off. I put liquid soap (totally all natural and non-toxic) on a sponge dish brush and that brush went in and out of his mouth for a good 2-3 minutes. And, yes I was a total bitch to him while I was doing it.
My ds came to me the other day very upset and when I asked him why he explained he was having bad memories of what I did to him (I still have not figured out what brought this on). Anyway I hugged him, told him that I loved him and I want to think about it before we sit down and talk about this. I absolutely will not apologize for what I did yet I want to be empathetic to him as much as I can be, but I realize this may be impossible.
This is a follow up to my post yesterday regarding the soap incident that took place a couple of years ago with my Ds. I told all of you I would candidly share when this conversation took place. What was an eye-opener for me was what affected my ds more was more what I SAID vs. what I DID. And, to those of you that thought my Ds was trying to manipulate or "get over on" me. You will see from this conversation that was clearly NOT the case. I thank all of you for your responses yesterday as they were very helpful (even the ones with harsh criticism).
My Ds and I sat down this morning before school and I made it clear to him from the outset that I really did not want to be having this conversation as this is just as painful a memory for me as it is for him and I don't need to re-live it. I then told him "Because I am your mother, I can see you are truly upset, and because I love you I will allow you to speak to me about this ONCE. You say what you need to say for however long it takes, I will then say what I need to say, then we are done and it's time to move on. I am NOT going to have multiple discussions with you about this are we clear?" (if he comes to me again with this I will simply tell him calmly that we've discussed this and he needs to move on) He said he understood "You go first, say whatever is on your mind, get it all off your chest, and don't worry about hurting my feelings. There will be NO negative consequences for anything you say to me." I will try and remember verbatim what we said to one another and share it with all of you as best I can.
"Mom this came back to me because I had a dream about it the other night. I don't know why it just happened. I just wanted to let you know how much it hurt me what you did especially some of the things you said while you were doing it. I am fully aware that what I did to Grandpa was awful and there is not a time when I don't think about it whenever I see him. But you don't know how terrible I felt after what you did to me. It was like you were a monster mom." At this point he started to choke up and a few tears started streaming down his face. "Mom do you remember some of those things you said? Do you remember comparing me to a dog and saying dogs can't control getting dirty and I need to be scrubbed just like a real dog?" At this point he started sobbing almost uncontrollably and whatever doubts or skepticism I had about him being truly upset were erased immediately. "Do you know how much that hurt mom? I am your son! I am not a dog!"
At this point I hugged him VERY hard and told him in a very calm voice to cry it out. I told him he could cry as long as he needed to and will hold him as long as it takes. But, I need him to be calm before I talk so that he understands and can take it in when I respond. After a long hug and a glass of water he finally calmed down and was ready to hear me.
"Ds, I realize how upset you are right now and I am not going to tell you how to feel as you're getting older and part of growing up is learning how to deal with your emotions when things happen that you don't like. I did what I did to you because you did an absolutely AWFUL and despicable thing to my father and your grandfather. It was by far the worst thing you've ever done in your life that I know of. I gave you a choice and told you as clearly as possible if you chose the soap vs. a 2 week grounding it would be the most unpleasant punishment you've ever experienced and it would be something you'd never forget. You made a conscious choice that you're friends and activities were more important and that was YOUR choice Ds. Just like the terrible thing you did to your grandpa your choices and actions have consequences. I'll bet if we did this over again you might have made a different decision am I right?" He said he wasn't sure but probably yes. "I took no pleasure WHATSOEVER in administering that punishment but I was extremely angry and I wanted to make my point with you in the strongest possible way. I will not apologize to you for what I did, but what I will apologize for is some of those comments I made. I should never have compared you to a dog, but I was very angry and sometimes when we are angry we say things we don't mean. Ds, you are my son, I love you more than anything else in this world, and I am truly sorry for what I said as I can see how a mother saying that to her child can be very hurtful. You're right, you're not a dog you're a GREAT kid who did a VERY bad thing. But, just like what I said was hurtful to you multiply it x 10 and that's how grandpa felt when you said what you said to him. It's not fun when people say mean degrading things is it? Ok, now you are a wonderful son with a bright future and just like you're not always going to be the perfect son I am not always going to be the perfect mom. Does that make sense? And, like I said before I love you more than anything else in the world and that does not change regardless of how angry I ever get with you do you understand? If as you say you really feel terrible about what happened with grandpa then why don't you and I go do some volunteer work with the local nursing home? I am not going to force it on you the decision is yours, but if you decide to do it I will do it with you as it will be our way of helping to heal and it will teach you some very valuable life lessons. You think about it and let me know "
At this point I asked him if he understood where I was coming from and was there anything else he needed to ask or say? He told me no and I said good so we can try and put this behind us now? He said yes. I said I want a big hug from you Ds. We hugged for a good 2 minutes and then I took him to school.