Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spilled oil, er, milk

Recently, several of my friends shared the same link on facebook. This is common, because a lot of us have mutual friends and mutual interests, and so a link to an article about breastfeeding or nutrition or even just a funny comic will get shared and re-shared. In this case though, friend after friend was posting the link with comments such as "wow, I needed to read this today" and "what an important reminder." It was a link to a blog post someone had written, so I mosied on over and read it.

Why I don't cry (or yell) over spilled milk

(it's a pretty short post, feel free to run over and read it if you like, or here is the readers digest version: 3 year old threw her brother's shoes in the lake. Mom didn't flip out or yell at anybody. She also did not flip out when a little one pulled her expensive camera off the counter and broke it. Because people matter more than things.)

As I read, I thought, what is so groundbreaking about this? Why are so many people re-posting it? (apparently she's had over 4,000 hits on that blog post in the last week) And then it hit me, oh yeah, it's because, like her, I am in that minority.  That minority that looks at stuff as just stuff. I'm trying not to feel (or appear) stuck-up over this, because I have plenty of flaws of my own. But on this one, I think I get it.
I didn't always get it. Even 5 years ago I didn't get it very well. I believed it in theory but it was hard in practice. But then an idea got planted in my head that it was healthy to always "attribute to [a person] the best motives that are consistent with the facts" and I started practicing that. Plus we moved to Alaska and got rid of a lot of stuff, which helped me learn to be less attached to specific things.
It's just a matter of practice. I'm not a better person, or a smarter person, or a more perfect mother (oh trust me I'm SO not!), but I decided to make this a priority, so I practice it. So I'm getting good at it.

Things can be fixed or replaced (or lived without)
People, not so much.

And I would so much rather raise healthy kids (who will then be equipped to raise their own healthy kids) than make some quip about "I can offer to pay for their therapy."

I admit to a loud, frustrated "aaaaaarrrgh!" when my 16mo unscrewed the lid of a 5gal jug of oil and tipped it over, pouring a gallon plus of oil across my kitchen floor. It took several days (and a lot of Dawn dish soap) to get all the oil off the floor and out of the cleaning rags. My in-front-of-the-sink rug is still not quite the same, and probably never will be. It also meant dinner got delayed that night because I was mopping up oil. Did Eagle intentionally unscrew the lid and push over the jug? Definitely. Did he know what he was doing--what the consequences would be? Well, he does love opening lids, but I'm pretty sure the actual spill wasn't anticipated. Was he trying to be naughty, or ruin my evening? No! He was exploring. Hey, look, there's a jug. I wonder what's in it. Oooo, look, I can get the lid off, aren't I smart? Ooo, look, there's something in there, I wonder what it is...

It's normal for kids to be curious. And unless physical/mental/spiritual danger is imminent, I typically let them go ahead and explore. They are kids!!!

Which isn't to say I don't teach them, or that I don't have any expectations of them. If a preschooler explores the idea of helping himself to some candy in the store, I help him go put it back and explain that we can't take things we don't pay for. If a 9 year old did it (which he didn't, but just as an example), I would express my extreme disappointment in his choice, and review commandment #8 thou shalt not steal, and then help or direct him in making it right.

I try to avoid most of the issues by babyproofing the house, or keeping certain items hidden or stored out of reach. But when my 4 year old intentionally leaves his brand new (one day old) boots at the park, and I don't realize it until three days later (because he's always barefoot anyway), I do feel frustrated. He loved the boots for the first 20 hours, but then apparently he hated them. $18 seems a little steep for only a day of wear... but it is what it is. The boots are gone. There is nothing to be gained by yelling at him. I did tell him I was sad, and that if he didn't want them he should have given them to me to save for his little brother. (They were dinosaur boots!) But even here, was Bear trying to be naughty? No. He had tired of the boots. In his mind, leaving them at the park was a perfectly logical way to no longer have them.

There is nothing to be gained by yelling.
There is also nothing to be gained by feeling mad.

Learn the lesson (if there is one), and then move on.

And keep the oil on a higher shelf. ☺


Cheryl said...

I totally agree that people are more important than things. (You know that has been my mantra for a long time!) However, I would have to disagree with the blogger you linked to. A three-year-old child should know better than to throw her brother's shoes in the water. If it were an accident (like the camera or like the spilled oil), that's one thing. But a mother is not doing her child any favors by not having consequences for the shoes.
There is no need for anger, but there is a need for consequences.
If you care about people more than things, you care enough to teach correct behavior.

Laura: The Sushi Snob said...

I kind of disagree with not somehow disciplining the child after throwing her brother's shoes into the lake. Apparently it wasn't the first time, and you really don't want her to keep throwing his shoes. That's just not nice, and not exactly validating the little boy who probably gets really frustrated when his sister does that.

Jenni said...

I agree that there should be discussion with the little shoe-thrower. I don't know if there was or not (I surmise, from other things the blogger has written, that there probably was). But I think the main point is that it's not something to yell about. Discussion is one thing, yelling at the kid is another. Even when we correct our children, we can keep our cool about it, and make sure that they know (and feel) that we still love them.

Jenni said...

yep, see, she posted an update http://www.jennifermcgrail.com/2011/04/spilled-milk-couple-of-thoughts-week.html she did discuss with her daughter. :)

mamapoekie said...

I copied this link into a post, to remind myself to write about this later. Being continuously on the move made a huge leap in detaching ourselves from stuff... but it is hard letting go in this very materialistic world

Laura: The Sushi Snob said...

Okay, I feel better knowing that she did have a talk with her daughter about it. I agree it's not something to yell about, but it is something that needs to be addressed, and I'm glad it was.

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