this morning, i was walking out of my bedroom after getting dressed, and i see a blur of blue flying through the air.
i knew instantly that disaster was imminent.
as the blue ball throttled my coffee mug and sent it flying to the floor, sending raindrops of salted-caramel-mocha-flavored coffee literally EVERYWHERE, i took a deep breath, anticipated the terrified and shameful reactions of my oldest son, the ball-thrower…and i decided to smile.
he was expecting me to yell, to chide him for playing ball upstairs (a no-no in our house), for not being careful.
but i smiled.
looking down at the mocha-colored coffee splatters, his eyes grew even larger. “it was my fault, Mama – it was an accident. i’m sorry! i’m sorry!” he blurted out.
and then he looked up and saw my smiling face…and his mocha-colored eyes returned to their normal, inquisitive state, and he smiled, too.
“i know, buddy. it’s okay,” i responded, reaching for the paper towels. “can you please keep your brother out of the kitchen while i clean this up?”
“i will, Mommy. i’ll do it!” he said, a sense of pride in his big-boy voice as he readied himself for a big-boy task.
as i was soaking up coffee with paper towels, my bare knees mocha-colored from my failed attempts to dodge the coffee on the floor, i thought about the way that i responded to this morning’s disaster.
i want to always be this kind of mama.
the one that understands that accidents happen, that kids are sometimes terrors that leave a mess in their wake.
the one who SMILES in the face of disaster.
the kind of mama that thinks about her response BEFORE SAYING ANYTHING to her sensitive and tender-hearted child who, with a swift kick of a ball (and excellent aim, mind you) broke the rules.
so, in this spirit, i bring you three things that i say too often, and one that i need to say more.
- “we need to be careful/gentle.” i’ll admit – i even uttered this phrase this morning during the coffee incident. but here’s the thing: sweet L is now four, as much as i hate to recognize it, and his uncontrollable toddler limbs are no more. in their place are capable, strong, focused, and (most of the time) gentle movements that take him to far-away places and that help him to achieve great things. in other words, even though accidents happen, or even though he may be doing something risky, like jumping from the second-to-last step or kicking a ball upstairs “where mama’s pretty things are,” he knows to be careful; we’ve taught him well.
- “your brother is smaller than you are.” just like L is aware of his own body, he is also aware of his little brother’s capabilities and size. even though i remind him often, particularly during moments of tackling and wrestling and rough play, to be careful with Q, i tend to forget that A) he is being careful, and that B) our Q-bug is, more often than not, the aggressor, the initiator, the culprit.
- “you’re a big boy.” i say this phrase in two distinct ways – A) to applaud him for excellent behavior or achievements, such as learning how many letters are in his first, middle and last names, or being kind to his friends, and B) to encourage him to behave better. i’m bringing up usage B) here as something that i need to say less often, though, because i’m noticing that i chide him for what i deem to be childish behavior with this phrase. for instance, last night as i was putting L to bed, he revealed that he wasn’t tired and that he didn’t want to go to bed. when i reminded him that it was bedtime, he began to cry (bedtime has been quite the struggle lately, which is a different post altogether…). my response to his tears was, of course, to snuggle and offer comfort, but i also uttered this phrase – “you’re a big boy.” however, in this moment, my use of the phrase seemed to emphasize (to me at least) that it’s not okay for big boys to cry, which is far from true. i don’t want him to think that having or attaining “big boy” status means that emotions need to be locked up tightly inside and not shared!
- BONUS! here’s what i need to say more often: “it’s okay.” it’s remarkable how much value i place in hearing these words myself – from Jordan, my parents, my colleagues, my friends, etc. – yet how little i utter or share this sentiment with others, and especially with my children.the phrase “it’s okay” offers with it a comfort and a reassurance that is unmatched by any of the phrases that i overuse above. what’s more: the meaning of “it’s okay” – whether it’s “i see that you’re struggling, but i’m here” or “your actions or feelings are not something that i’ll hold against you” – is exactly what i am trying to teach my children to offer to others.
after all, how can i preach kindness and teach grace-filled behavior without offering it myself?