Dear Daughter, Sorry About That

Parenting is tough.  Nobody gets through it mistake free, including me. I tried to warn my kids of this fact when they were growing up, and let them know that whatever poor decisions and miscues I made, I would always be acting from a place of love.

Does that make dealing with parental screw-ups any easier on the kids? I don’t know. You’d have to ask them,  I’m thinking not.

In one of my daughter’s most infamous high school incidents (there weren’t many), she was involved in some sort of fooling around in which she ended up pushing her friend off an 8 foot high stage as said friend was sitting in a child-sized play wagon. Friend ended up with a concussion. 

I was angry and disappointed that my daughter’s carelessness caused someone to get injured.  I made her call the friends parents, explain the situation and apologize.  My daughter already felt terrible, and sobbed her way through the apology.

The friend’s mom and I worked together at the same school, and I was relieved that she never seemed too concerned about the incident.  She wasn’t mad at my daughter, and actually made jokes about the whole situation.  I always had the feeling that she didn’t hold my daughter responsible.

Turns out there was a good reason for that.

Last week at dinner with my daughter, we got to telling stories. The case of the concussion came up, and as she recounted the whole thing, my ear caught something it hadn’t before. Apparently, there were more people involved in the “wagon-off-the-stage” mishap than I knew.

As the story unfolded, I heard for the first time that my daughter had only a small part in this, and that she was not in a position to significantly push or steer the wagon, and that it was others who were ultimately responsible for the friend going over the edge and smacking her head on the concrete.  

I looked to my wife for confirmation of this news and she let me know that it wasn’t news to her. That’s what my daughter had said from Day 1, although, in the emotion of those original moments, the first descriptions of the incident were unclear.

As I found out at dinner, others on the scene were the lead perpetrators in the story.  They were the ones largely responsible for causing the concussion, and even declined to stop the wagon from going over ledge when others, including my daughter, tried to stop it.

As I hear the incident now, it sounds more like a case of my daughter being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A lawyer would be hard pressed to prove negligence or criminal intent.

But in my zest to make my daughter take responsibility for her actions, I had made her take responsibility for other people’s actions.  What a dangerous and unhealthy difference there is between those two lessons! 

Just send the therapy bills to my address please.

At this point, the incident is approaching 10 years old, and my daughter and the victim are still close friends.  I moved on to another job and no longer see the victim’s mom at school everyday. Everybody involved recalls the whole thing with humor.

Everybody except me.

I feel bad about the misunderstanding, wondering how I got the details wrong and why nobody insisted I listen again until I heard it right.  I wonder how (and if) the inadvertent messages of my disciplinary action plays into any issues my daughter may currently be dealing with.

Dammit.

All I can do is apologize, which I have many times. It doesn’t seem enough.  

As I look back over my career as a parent, there are definitely identifiable mistakes I can pinpoint.  Those are bad enough. It’s retrospective surprises like this that are harder to deal with. 

Sue Atkins said “There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”

Hopefully that’s good enough.

Follow Todd Fulginiti at Wise & Shine Magazine and on his personal blog at Five O’Clock Shadow.  For Todd’s musical adventures, visit www.toddfulginiti.com


36 thoughts on “Dear Daughter, Sorry About That

  1. Sorry to hear that, you made those decisions out of love ❤, for your daughter it’s OK. As you said there’s no perfect parent but there’s a real one. I guess you are!

  2. Admitting to mistakes and apologizing as a parent are amazing traits to teach your child. My Dad once told me that while I was learning as a child, he was also learning how to be a parent. We would both make mistakes, but as long as we admitted to them and learned from them, we would both succeed. It’s a great lesson and a fond memory as I raise my own children.

    1. I had the same thought. I’m not a parent myself, but those time when my parents apologized to me–their child–and were able to admit they had made a mistake meant a lot. A parents job is to lead by example, and perhaps one of the most challenging and important examples is taking responsibility and being able to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Don’t be too hard on yourself!

      1. Thanks! I can forgive myself- I just wish I would have known the situation better at the time- I would have acted differently.

    1. So true- I am glad we have a good relationship! We’re visiting the PA Farm Show together today 🙂

      1. Wow! I’m in Lititz now, just north of Lancaster where I grew up! 🤯 Small world! The Farm Show is great! 🤩

      2. I went to Etown College; my parents lived in Strasburg for 25 years. I know Lancaster fairly well—back in the 60s my HS was in the Central Penn League with McCaskey. Small world, indeed!

  3. Oh my goodness – what a story – and one that I’m glad you shared, Todd. I have a feeling (and only my daughter would know for sure) that I must’ve done something similar along the way — pushing her to take responsibility when shared blame was more accurate in a situation. Especially in an instance where someone got hurt where we naturally ratchet up the tension…the urgency to respond, apologize. I think we parents do the best we can, but I love how the additional info — the accurate depiction of what occurred – has given you this perspective. And I love the Sue Atkins quote — so right-on! xo! 😘

  4. Oh, what a story. This reminds me of a quote from psychiatrist Scott Peck, “…the problem of distinguishing what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence.”

    It strikes me that in your quest to help your daughter understand what she was responsible for and the misunderstanding, now you are carrying a too heavy load of what you are responsible for. Sh!t! It’s never easy.

    But your honesty, self-awareness and love I think carries the day – and helps me greatly in my parenting journey. Thank you, Todd!

    1. Thanks Wynne! It actually helps a lot too that this all happened about 10 years ago. I would feel much worse I think if I had found this out right after it all went down

  5. Parenting is difficult, still is even though my family are now adults with their own families. Your story has made me remember some errors of my own which I apologised for but still feel bad about. We need to forgive ourselves, I know, but it’s hard sometimes. At least we know we’re not perfect Todd 🙂

    1. Thanks, Margaret – I totally agree with what you said about parenting adults. I thought that would be easy- but it’s not- it’s just different.

  6. Boy, I’ve been there, so I was feeling all the feels as I read this. Especially about allowing our own needs to do “right” to dominate. But I truly believe these sorts of things are more impactful to us as the parent – particularly when you acknowledge that you were in the wrong. I’ve always respected my parents (and willingly forgave them) when they apologized I’m betting your daughter feels the same. And she likely appreciates the example you’re setting that while we all make mistakes, how to respond when we do. 😊

    1. Thanks Kendra- I think you’re right about this being more impactful to me than to my daughter. She is laughing about the whole situation, especially my recent discovery of the truth about the whole incident.

  7. In addition to telling them everything I’ve done was out of love, I also tell them when ready to see a therapist let me know…I’ll lend them my journals to go through to cut down on the time they spend with them!

    In all seriousness…I think our kids know. There are parents out there that wouldn’t care. Ya done the best ya could.

  8. To Sue Atkins quote, “There is no such thing as a perfect parent” I would also add “There is no such thing as an accident.” I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and I have often learned (sometimes years later!) that there is always a lesson of some sort hidden within the painful pages of a story. Sometimes it takes years before I figure out what it is, and sometimes, it just ups in the moment and smacks me right between the eyeballs. Either way, whether I understand it or not, I see it as a gift of increased awareness that in the long run, will make me a better person. Meanwhile, there are a few ouchie’s involved along the way! What a blessing that you got to ‘see’ the truth while you both are still around to hug one another.

  9. Todd, we do our best. And sometimes our best isn’t very good. At other times, our best turns out to be really great! It all balances out.

    You sound like a great dad. Many dads could/should take a lesson from you.

  10. I also think you are a good dad, Todd. I don’t know many parents who would carry this guilty feeling and apologize for being wrong. This being humble makes you a great dad.

  11. As your make-believe lawyer, I’m blaming Tammy. If she knew the real facts, it was her responsibility to hammer it into your thick head. Oh, by the way, please don’t share this post with your wife.

Leave a Reply