I hurt my son's feelings. Badly.
It wasn't today, though it was a recent event. There was a silly prank gone wrong. I didn't perform the actual prank, though I did know about and good-naturedly encourage it. I was absolutely a party to the offense.
At first, I thought he was okay. Then, as we got into the car to leave the park where it happened, he growled at me from the back seat and told me never to talk to him again.
I have never seen or heard him so damn angry in his 11-year-old life.
I felt awful. In my heart, I felt like he was overreacting melodramatically, but he was absolutely hurt that I could let something embarrassing happen to him like that, in front of friends and strangers alike.
"I'm so sorry," I said, turning in the seat to face him directly. "I should have known better. I should've known that it would hurt your feelings. I apologize, and I hope one day you will forgive me for that."
He glared at me and looked away.
As I started to back from the parking space, I said, "And I hope you know I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings. It was just a prank—you normally like such things, and we thought you would just laugh it off. But I wasn't trying to upset you."
"Yeah," he spat, "but you weren't trying not to, either."
Wham! Right in the face!
He was right. And he was mimicking something I say to my boys all the time.
One of the boys will whack the other one, even unintentionally, and say, "But I didn't mean to do it!"
"But you didn't mean not to do it, either," I'll often respond.
Sometimes it's not enough that we're passively careful with each other, no matter how aware we may be of the potential impact of our actions. While another person's response and feelings are in no way our responsibility, there are times when we must be proactive in our concern and be intensely cognizant of how what we do will affect them.
That doesn't mean we choose what's best for them, just to keep them from being hurt. Sometimes the right choice is not ideal for everyone involved. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where one person will win and one will lose. Sometimes there just is no compromise.
When we are careless with each other, that's when we are most at fault. Unkind words and injuries can hurt, but the real damage comes from the lack of concern, especially when we should have known better.
As a parent, I struggle with these things all the time. I know these are lessons that my boys have to learn—how to be thoughtful, how to apologize even when you don't want to, how not to hold onto something grudgefully—but they are the same lessons I find myself relearning all the time.
Within a few hours, he'd forgiven me completely, but I know he won't have forgotten about it. (He's just like that. He gets it from me.) I hope he knows that I won't have forgotten, either, and that I will absolutely do my best to try not to let it happen again.