My job is a mixed thing, as far as raising kids goes.
For one thing, in air traffic control, when I tell someone to do something, they do it. Immediately. A delay of two seconds before compliance is considered a long damn time. It is ridiculous to expecct my children to have similar compliance patterns. Yet, I find that sometimes that is what I expect. I am disappointed, and, really, it’s my fault.
For another thing, I make decisions very quickly. In portions of a second. The mantra of my job is, “make it work, one way or another.” Not every decision is the best one I could make in that moment, but it’s the one I made, and failure is not an option. The planes WILL remain apart, I WILL get them in the right sequence for flow control, it WILL work. One way or another. Making decisions and living with the consequences and simply forcing the situation into something that works, this is my job. This is …. not so much how other people make decisions, I’ve noticed. And it’s useless to expect my kids to make big decisions in less than a second.
But then, there’s apologies.
My job is good for responsibility and apologies.
If and when I screw up at work, if I didn’t get the flow done perfectly and the next controller has to do some of it, or if I miss a point out or a handoff, or if I forget that this guy is waiting for a clearance, it’s my fault. There’s just me. Sure, there were other things going on that I was looking at. Sure, the supervisor was talking to me, and this one VFR guy was being needy, and there was weather I was dealing with. None of that matters. If I screwed up, I screwed it up. I apologize, I accept the responsibility, and I try to make up for it in some way.
It’s considered …. poor, poor form, really, to blame someone else if you screw up in my job. It’s … whining. And, also, then we don’t trust you. Stepping up — manning up, in the parlance of my workplace — is the only real option. Recently I had a deal. I did not point out an aircraft to Salt Lake Center, and it was deviating, and it clipped Salt Lake 17. This was a minor deal, but it still was one. I told everyone who heard about it that it was my deal, my fault. The other controller working the sector with me? She told everyone it was her deal. Her fault. That’s a normal sort of situation in my area.
Why am I mentioning this now? Because in a half hour I am taking my kids to their last class at the Science Museum. And M has to apologize to another kid there, for yelling at him and having a tantrum last week. And then I am skipping my Wednesday trip to the Y and my much-wanted workout in order to sit at the Science Museum in case there are any more problems and I need to yank M out of the class. I could blame M for this — and, frankly, I have told him that his actions are entirely unsupportable and he needs to make up for them — but, I am his parent. His actions are my responsibility, just like the actions of the wayward pilots who are doing god-knows-what in MY sector. M needs to apologize, but so do I. And just as M has had negative consequences all week for his behavior, I need to miss my workout and take responsibility to make sure things go better today.
As far as I can tell, there’s two major kinds of being sorry for something. There’s the useful kind, and the not-useful kind. The not-useful sort of sorry means you feel really really bad for something. You feel guilty, and ashamed, and furious. You want to blame everyone else. You blame yourself entirely. You are the worst, most worthless creature on the planet, and there’s no point in apologizing or making reparations because you are so worthless. This kind of sorry? This kind of sorry does no-one any sort of good. Not only do you feel awful, you don’t make anything better. EVERYONE feels sucky with this kind of sorry.
In the useful kind of sorry, you still feel awful. Ashamed, angry, guilty, sick to your stomach or sick at heart. But you apologize. You don’t apologize in order to get the other person to forgive you, or to get the other person to feel better, or to feel worse — you don’t apologize to get the other person to do ANYTHING. You apologize because you screwed up, and you owe it. Then you ask the wronged party if there’s anything you can do. You offer some sort of services, words, or goods to mend the damage done. Again, NOT to get the other person to do anything — not to get them to make you feel better, certainly. But because you screwed up and you owe it.
So that’s going to be my morning. I hope it all goes well. I hope I get to sit in the Science Museum, reading my book, and that there will be no problems. But if there are any difficulties, I am prepared to apologize, and to make up for it by removing the problem. It’s my responsibility, and I owe it.