Teach Kids to Apologize to The Au Pair

by cv harquail on February 6, 2017

Hosting an Au Pair presents us with one opportunity after another to teach our children how to be kind.

In many of our conversations here on the blog, we worry about being kind proactively.

As adults, we Host Parents spend a lot of time thinking about how to be kind to our Au Pairs, to say “no” only when necessary, to offer explanations of tough decisions, and to be generous when we can.

We also try to model kindness after the breach — when feelings have been hurt, folks have been angry, or even just a little too self-centered.

I know that time and again I’ve said “I’m sorry for ______” to an Au Pair, and done this in front of my girls. I’ve wanted them to see that apologizing — being kind after having been hurtful — is a normal part of being a good family member. I wanted them to feel like they could mend a breach that they had created.

Finding Proof

As I was clearing out a drawer over the weekend, I found this envelope addressed to Clara, our Au Pair from when my girls were 10 and 12-ish.

The handwriting was obviously my older daughter — the one who’s just gone off to college. When I opened it up, I realized it was a concrete piece of evidence of one of my child’s magical qualities —

One of the things I’ve loved about my older daughter is that she is a model of saying “I’m sorry”. As a girl, she’d be angry or mean like any other kid who wants things her own way. She’d argue, get flustered, and occasionally stomp off to her room. All that is common.

What’s uncommon, though, is that even as a little kid she’d return a short time later and apologize. And really mean it.

I can imagine the situation that could have triggered this note — an unmade bed, laundry on the floor, a direction to put the book away NOW and turn out the light.

Even though it’s a little stilted, a little formal,  I can hear my 12 year olds’ voice saying the words, sincerely and with love. And I’m proud of her.

Clara is, too.

Are there ways that your kids have surprised you by being kind to your Au Pair?


TexasHM February 9, 2017 at 11:07 am

Awww I love this! The AP program is ripe for misunderstanding due to the combination of often ESL participants, different cultural backgrounds/meanings and age differences. I have found personally it isn’t that I will say or do something intentionally hurtful but due to factors listed above what I say is interpreted differently when taken through the lens of my AP.

For example, I once told an AP that we could work together on a transition plan and that as long as we had at least 6 weeks we could coordinate getting another AP, helping her prepare and interview, etc and she heard it as she was totally replaceable and it would only take me a few weeks to swap her out! NOT AT ALL what I was saying and we were devastated to lose her as a family member but I was trying to keep my emotion in check and do what was best for her and for the kids (not me). I had to go back and apologize and make it very clear that is not at all what I said/meant.

We also had a situation where my DS at a family school event commented that we “were all family except AP NAME”. She started crying and excused herself to the bathroom, I jumped all over him and then he started crying and said “I just meant that we all had the same last name except for AP, not that I don’t love her or that she isn’t family to me”. Sigh. He did apologize, I went to the bathroom to explain and apologize to her for the misunderstanding and then I had to apologize to DS for jumping all over him and assuming he meant something hurtful without clarifying especially given he is a sweet soul and NEVER says hurtful things to anyone.

It’s definitely a growth experience for all this AP program. My favorite kind things the kids have done are the homemade cards with the thoughtful touches (including their flag or drawing the APs favorite things that shows they truly care and are engaged with her). I also have loved on a few occasions where a kid knew the AP was sad about something and they went out of their way to snuggle the AP, make her a card, be extra good, offer her a piece of candy from their stash etc. Or insisting that I buy her Cheetos puffs for her stocking or birthday and offering to pay with their own money to make sure she gets them. :)

I haven’t historically been a good apologizer or good at accepting help/gifts and this program has helped me with that immensely for which I am grateful. None of us are perfect and could all use a little more grace/tolerance so I hope the kids and APs see that and embrace it and I hope we will all be so lucky as to stumble across a note like this sweet sentiment from your daughter in the future!

cv harquail February 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm

such sweet stories!

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