Throughout my teaching career AND my parenting career, I have tried to teach young people that it is imperative to think before acting or speaking. One must weigh the consequences of actions and words, particularly words, because they can't be undone.
To be perfectly honest, however, I am an abysmal failure at it myself. It seems I am forever sticking my proverbial foot in my not-so-proverbial mouth. And that was BEFORE the days of email. That just opens up an entirely new faux-pas riddled arena.
Case in point: Back in the late spring, right before school got out for the "summer", I sent an email to my colleagues asking if they wanted to get together to go see Chicago at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in September. I asked them if "Ahem.....we should invite anyone else....ahem", referring of course to our principal, about whom I had written a SCATHING blog post a few months before. She never accepts our invitations, never wants to join us in our outings, showed up at the end-of-the-year picnic THAT WAS TO HONOR GRADUATING SENIORS, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, after everyone had left.
After I sent the email, I started feeling sort of bad about leaving her out, and before anyone answered me, I decided to invite her anyway. Only it was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much trouble to compose an entirely new email of those three sentences. I forwarded the first one. I'm sure it wasn't hard for her to figure out whom the "ahem" reference was aimed at. I stand by it, based on the fact that she never wants to do anything with us, but I still wouldn't have sent it with that line in it had I been paying attention. My face burns even as I type this.
Something that hurts my heart even more, though, and something I can never take back or repair, is something I said to my niece when she was 14 years old and had a fight with her mother (my sister). She rode the bus to my house every afternoon so her father could pick her up there, and therefore I felt it my right (?) to confront her about her disagreement, asking what the problem was with her mother. I felt fiercely protective of my sister, who was certainly of an age where she was capable of taking care of herself. My niece told me it was none of my business, WHICH IT WASN'T, and I called her a little bitch.
I thought I was grown at the age of 24. I guess I thought in all my wisdom that this teenager would say to herself, "Why yes, I AM a bitch. Thank you, aunt, for setting me on the right path." Clearly the bitch in question here was NOT the 14-year-old.
There was nothing to be gained from putting my nose in their business. But there was a lot of damage in that little five-letter word.
She never rode the bus to my house again.
I wanted more than anything for us to be close. She was my first niece, and we are only 10 years apart in age. I wanted us to be pals, emailing and texting and calling one another at least once a week. We only live about 15 miles apart, and I'd love for us to get together with our hubbies and socialize.
It's not that we are estranged. We have a terrific time when we get together, particularly at family events, when we spend a lot of time making fun of cousins. And aunts. And grandmothers. Everyone is fair game. With the exception of anyone who might be reading this blog. Five of us got together this past February and went to lunch and a gymnastics meet, three sisters and two nieces, and we had a terrific time.
When she lived in Italy because her first husband was stationed there with the Army, Sweet Girl and I went to visit for two weeks. It was a fabulous trip, and I have many wonderful memories of the time we spent there. [Nurse Jane, for the record, we did NOT go into Switzerland. We DID go shopping in Innsbruck, Austria, and we went camping in Germany. In the rain. You're welcome.]
But I wonder all the time what our relationship might have been like if I hadn't uttered those words back when she was 14. Neither of us has ever mentioned it again, and I'd like to hope with every fiber of my being that she has forgotten it. But I'm sure she hasn't, because I wouldn't forget it if someone had said it to me. I would love to apologize now for something I did almost 25 years ago, but I'm afraid it would be awkward and nonproductive. Unproductive? Whatever.
I would love to unring that bell. Anyone else have bells you would like to unring?