Monday, April 16, 2007

Spilled milk (or juice)

Why, oh why do I have such a problem with spilled drinks?

I know that the rational reaction when a five-year-old topples a cup of juice is a resigned "Oh well." And yet -- despite myself, before I even realize it -- I say something that clearly shows my exasperation and, I'm sure, makes W feel like crap for having knocked over his cup.

Bad mommy. Bad, bad Crabby Mommy.

Even worse, over the weekend W and I were baking, and when he sailed the bowl of dry ingredients -- which he had carefully measured and dumped in and whisked -- onto the floor, I actually screamed at him. He cowered and cried and took off for his room. And my husband was furious with me. I felt pretty bad too. I cleaned it up (between the Dustbuster and a wet sponge it took all of two minutes) and then went to apologize to W, and we finished the baking without incident. But I felt like shit for making my kid cry.

When, actually, can one expect a kid not to knock over cups and bowls with regularity? How old? I myself haven't done it more than once or twice in the past decade, so yes, I feel confident that we do outgrow the tendency eventually. E, at eight, hasn't knocked anything over in -- well -- okay, I don't think he's ever done it. He's just not that kind of kid. He's a careful one. Also not a good frame of reference for me. I think W pays for E's off-the-curve behavior in more ways than this, because I am not properly conditioned. My expectations have not been set appropriately. That's really the problem.

My brother always complained that I didn't do enough to break our parents in when I was a teenager. Maybe this is similar. I can hear it in W's therapy 20 years from now: "My goddamn goody-two-shoes brother. He never spilled his milk, so every time I did it -- I was five, for chrissakes! -- my mom made me feel like an idiot."

So the problem here is clear. Must learn to control reactions with respect to spilled drinks. How to do? Some thoughts:

1) Spill a few myself on purpose, just to even things out.

2) Time cleanup -- why get worked up over something that takes a mere 15 seconds to swab?

3) Figure out a canned speech for the moment of distress: Wow, the floor/counter/chair/table must be hungry/thirsty!

4) Maybe I should start doing affirmations. I will not yell at my kids for spilling milk. I will breathe deeply when the flour flies. I will not give my kids any more reasons to hold their shortcomings against me. I will start saving for their therapy funds tomorrow.

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