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So, the thing is… I am sorry.
by Barbara Cooper
This morning, Jane and I were drawing with chalk on the driveway. She wanted me to draw a picture of poison ivy. (I know, I know, that’s a strange request. But my girls play this game where I draw a picture of poison ivy and then they run away, in mock horror.) So, I obliged by drawing three leaves and a stem and Jane came over, scrunched up her face and said, “No! That’s CORN!” She was very disappointed. So, then I drew her a picture of corn so she could see how I draw corn. “Oh,” she said. And then she kind of patted me on the shoulder sympathetically and asked if we could go run through the sprinklers.
This small exchange mirrored what’s going on in my life this week. This week I sent a column that, although entirely sincere, was not very sensitive and not very well written. I am embarrassed and I owe my readers an apology.
After the column came out, I received two “unsubscribes” from long-term readers. One of the readers was someone with whom I’ve had a lot of conversations and someone whom I really respect, both as a mother and as a follower of my column who really thinks about the things I write. I was stunned and (I promise I don’t do this to every unsubscribe I get) asked her if she would mind giving me some feedback.
This morning, I received her response and it really resonated with me. I thank her for spending the time to educate me. Here’s an excerpt:
I really appreciate this thoughtful feedback. I was honestly surprised by what offended her, but I think she’s right: this isn't the forum for using my personal observations to illustrate this particular issue. I've been so immersed in this issue that I just wasn't sensitive at all to how I sounded to other people. When I used the word “gifted,” I was using it as a technical term. I wasn’t even thinking of it in its literal sense. I sincerely apologize for being so incredibly insensitive.
I struggled a lot with the column before I sent it. It had been almost four weeks since my last column and I decided that I needed to write about this issue in order to move past it and get onto other things. I should have written it all out (my first draft was almost 2,000 words!) and then just put it away. It's a ticklish subject and I'm not an expert in it by any means.
I was trying to reassure my friends and readers who are struggling with similar issues and I ended up sounding boastful and like I had everything all figured out. I don’t have everything figured out, by any means, and I am sorry to come across that way. I never meant to sound like I thought that my children are in some way superior. I do not feel that way and regret immensely that I gave that impression. As a writer who did not communicate what I intended, I take full responsibility.
I thank my readers for always being so forthright and willing to help me understand when they feel I’m off-base. My critic did re-subscribe and I’m glad. I need readers who will call me on my pretensions.
My fellow writer and friend Carol Ann wrote me a note last night and said, “Maybe you should do a letter on apology. I did one for last Mothers Day, about the singer in the little town at the church service. The singer was so awful that even he knew it, and at the end, he simply said, "I'm sorry."
So, the thing is… I’m sorry.
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© Barbara Cooper 2003
Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (5) and Jane (2.5). She lives in
Austin, Texas and can draw a recognizable chalk FLOWER.