February 2011

At some point growing up I came to the conclusion that it was unsafe to admit certain mistakes.  I don’t know when exactly that happened, but I know it happened because of my response to one particular situation.

I had just made myself a nice tall glass of chocolate milk…mmm mmm.  I sat down in the den to watch a TV show and enjoy this glass of yumminess, when I accidentally spilled the entire glass.  Amazingly, the entire contents of said glass fell under the couch.  Looking at the scene of the crime you could not tell that anything had happened…it was all hidden.

Sizing up the situation, and seeing that the evidence was hidden, I slunk away, hiding the remaining evidence by putting the glass in the dishwasher and acting as if nothing ever happened.  I could have went to mom and confessed what happened, asking for help in the cleanup.  I could have moved the couch and cleaned it up myself, risking being ‘found out’ by a passerby.  But I chose to ignore the damage and hope it would just go away.

I was dumbfounded as days went by and there was no mention of this mysterious mess.  Surely mom had found it by now.  Surely the milk soured and smelled.  Surely the floor seemed a bit sticky, warranting further investigation, eventually uncovering the crime.  But nothing was mentioned.  There was no rounding up of the troops for an inquiry.  There was no direct questioning, especially since I was the most likely candidate for a CHOCOLATE milk fiasco.

As the days went on it became clear that I had gotten off scott-free.

At some point I learned that Mom did indeed find the mess, and knew it was me (did I mention it was CHOCOLATE milk), but there was still no consequence for the mess or for my irresponsibility in not cleaning up.  Fear kept me from confessing in the first place, and the lack of any repercussion confirmed that this was the ‘right decision.’

I thought about that incident today as my kids were enjoying their brownies sundae desserts I made for them.  As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I heard my 22 month old call out ‘MESS.’  I looked to see his entire scoop of ice cream underneath the table on the rug floor.  It was an accident.  He tried to take a spoonful and it fell.  He wasn’t being disobedient or careless, he was simply being a 22-month-old trying to eat ice cream.

As I saw this blob of ice cream on the floor, I actually chuckled, which is not my usual response.  I hate messes.  Not so much because I’m a super-neat person, but rather because I am a lazy person and hate having to clean up additional messes.  If you asked my children, they would tell you without hesitation that Mom hates messes, because they hear those words so often.  Unfortunately, they often hear those words at a rather loud volume.

As I saw my sons mess, and his innocent plea for help with the mess, I realized I have two choices. I can learn to overlook innocent accidents, and encourage their forthrightness in telling me what happened, or I can snap at them, and eventually shame them or scare them into NOT wanting to tell mom the truth.

Most of the time, aside from the minor inconvenience interrupting what I’m doing to clean up, their accidents are not all that troublesome.  Just little spills here and there.  I often think it terms of cost.  What is this stain going to cost me to get cleaned when we move out of this apartment?  But there is another cost that I have ignored up to this point.  What is it going to cost me in terms of my relationship with my children if I explode everytime they have an accident or make a mistake?  The latter cost…so much more important than any monetary loss we may incur.


First day of 10th grade.  The anticipation was killing me .  I knew what was coming, and it was almost like a rite of passage for us dorky AP-kids…those of us who took ‘Advanced Placement’ courses for college credit.  I came home with my 10-pound AP Biology textbook, 5-inches thick.  It took up half of my backpack.  In a weird, nerdy sort of way it was a badge of honor to have this massive textbook in my possession.

I walked through the door, beaming with pride, so eager to show someone this book. The first person I saw was my dad at the kitchen table.  I so proudly displayed the textbook and said, ‘hey Dad, look at how big this is,’ hoping for someone to share in my excitement.  His response…’yeah, I know.  Jimmy had that book last year.’

I was deflated!  He intended no ill-will, yet I was flattened.  I just wanted someone to rejoice with me, to share in the excitement I had about taking a course that required such a large book, but that’s not what I received.

His words were true.  My brother took that course the year before, and brought home that famed textbook as well.  It wasn’t new anymore.  It wasn’t novel.  It was old news, and not very excited…for my dad at least.  But it was the first time that I brought home that book.  It was the first time that I was taking this class.  For me it was exciting, but thanks to an off the cuff comment, it became clear that my excitement wasn’t warranted.

I haven’t thought about that episode since, well, probably since it happened…until the other day.  I expressed a similar reaction to one of my girls, and as soon as the words left my mouth, the memory of my disappointment came flooding back to mind.

Abigail was sharing with me a ‘trick’ she just learned.  She so proudly showed me, and my reflex response?  “Yeah, I saw Bella do that the other day.”  And BAM, in an instant, her excited smile left her face, and I saw a glimpse of the same let-down I experienced 15 years before.

I messed up once.  Shame on me if I do it again.  The life of a mom is busy, and I don’t always want to be ‘bothered’ with insignificant, little-people issues, problems, excitements, etc.  My reflex reactions is often harsh, unkind and unhelpful.  But that is MY sin, and something that I need to change.

So, the lesson I learned, thankfully at this early stage, is that I need to join in their excitement.  I need to remember that while the things that thrill a 4-year-old may be rather dull and boring to their old Mama, they are indeed thrilling to them.  Why not be thrilled for them?

The, ‘been there, done that’ attitude does not help to strengthen my relationship with my children.  When they want to show me how, ‘they can spin on one foot’ it is tempting to roll my eyes and think in a sarcastic tone, ‘oh wow, isn’t that great’, but it is great.  That little person is developing coordination.  That little person is experimenting with that they can do.  AND, best of all, that little person wants their Mama to share in that joy.  They are seeking a relationship with me.  They are seeking to draw me into their world, and share in their experiences.  So however silly or worthless that experience may seem to me at the time, that relationship is anything but silly or worthless.  That relationship is one of the most important earthly gifts I have been given.

May I be diligent to nurture that relationship!