Recently my sweet and helpful daughter offered to fetch me a drink of water. Somehow in the course of things, the glass slipped from her grasp and shattered on the kitchen floor. Fortunately, it was an otherwise low-stress moment, and I had the patience and presence of mind to assure her that it was fine. While I gave her comforting platitudes about how this wasn’t the first dish to be broken in this house by children, nor will it be the last, she brushed tears from her eyes, clearly far more upset by the incident than I was.
I got her bare feet safely out of the way and cleaned up the disaster, mulling over our different reactions and how they have changed over time.
Early on, my children—even the neat, methodical ones—tended to be careless and sloppy with their actions, often leaving chaos in their wake. I took such infractions very seriously, especially when carelessness led to damage. I drilled into them the importance of caution and self-awareness, and preached on the horrors of destruction and waste (wastefulness is one of the penultimate evils in our household). While some of the younger ones are still working on refining their slow-down-and-think skills, it’s heartening to see how the older ones have taken the lesson seriously and learned to mind the consequences of their actions. (I may have drilled this lesson in rather firmly.)
Now, I still do think that it’s important to emphasize the need for care for and attention to our surroundings. It’s just a matter of basic common sense to maintain our possessions and respect other people’s things. However, I’ve also learned how important it is to lighten up around kids who, despite having the best of intentions at times, are still very young, with immature cognitive and physical skills. Accidents will happen while we work on catching up learned behavior to modeled and prescribed behavior.
The best way I’ve found to navigate this learning curve is to give ourselves a whole lot of margin while we muddle through. For me, this means maintaining a low-stress environment (ha! Easier said than done!) so that I can respond to inevitable crises with a broader and calmer perspective. For the sake of the kids, it means not having too much fussy stuff around to wreak unintentional havoc on. We have made the conscious decision not to invest in fancy or expensive things while we’re in this season of life. We don’t want to get so wrapped up in the importance of fine possessions that we end up valuing those possessions over a good relationship with our children. So for us, it means we defer on the nice furniture, decorations, and serving ware.
Perhaps it could be a bit discouraging to feel that we’re still living in our “starter home” mode (although our house itself is much larger than our actual starter home was), with hand-me-down furniture and the inexpensive white plates I got at Walmart before I was married. However, it would have been even more discouraging to have upgraded prematurely and then bemoan the inevitable destruction to the white sofas and fine chinas.
I exaggerate, of course. I assume most families with young kids will tend to opt for the safe and secure route. We are just really hardcore about settling for free stuff and hand-me-downs. The peace of mind is more than worth the casualness of the decor.
So when another cheap glass hits the floor, it really is of little consequence. The monetary value is negligible, the sentimental tug is non-existent, and the principle of the thing is still a good lesson learned: people are more important than possessions. And while carelessness should be scolded, honest mistakes should not be (overly) berated. And good intentions should be commended. And on the bright side, every broken dish brings us one step closer to our “someday” set.
Photo Credit: First photo from pixabay, graphic design by Charity Klicka; second photo and third photos taken by Rose Focht, edited by Charity Klicka.