Every mother knows the unmistakable sound of breaking glass: The high-pitched crash and splatter and the immediate cringe and grimace that comes with it. It happens in the middle of cooking dinner or right as you’re headed out the door. My immediate response is usually “Nobody move”—no need to be picking out slivers from my kids’ feet as well. Other times my response is a sigh, or jumping-to-conclusions anger over who was goofing off and being careless.
I’ve had a number of windows broken in my house (actually the same one repeatedly), a result of my boys playing ball in the backyard. The jolting sound of window glass shattering is enough to make your heart drop.
My immediate reactions to these incidents tell me a lot about where I am in my parenting at any given moment. When it’s anger it often means that I’m stretched thin and not taking enough care of myself. When I’m able to take a deep breath before proceeding I know I’m in a calmer, more in-tuned place with both myself and the kids.
Our kids are constantly soaking up our own mannerisms and reactions to life’s events big and small. And whether I push them away and scold them in anger or draw them close and lovingly correct them when needed as mistakes happen, I’ve found the latter makes a profound difference in their sense of well-being, confidence, and what every parent wishes to positively influence: their behavior.
I love to collect sets of vintage glassware. I get a thrill over finding a set of drinking glasses covered in red birds, flowers, or etched with stars. We use them daily instead of the plastic kids cups from when they were younger. Every few months or so (sometimes more often), one is tipped over and broken at the dinner table by a clumsy elbow or slippery hand, and part of me wants to mourn the loss of my coveted one-of-a-kind find. Everyone at the table holds their breath in those moments, waiting to see which way the barometer is going to go, whether a storm is coming or the clouds are just going to roll by. The thing is, those glasses are replaceable. Sure I may not find the exact same one again, but there are always more unique glasses to find and enjoy. The hearts and spirits of my children are not something that can be easily repaired or at all replaced when I let myself slip into anger over the loss of things.
It becomes a little harder to keep my cool when it’s a sentimental object that finds its end, though. I had a coveted dark bronzed lamp with a dolphin curved over a globe that I fell in love with and bought in high school. I was thrilled to bring it out and put in my girls’ room once they both hit their elementary years. I remember being entranced by it as a teen, and wanted to share my treasured lamp with my sweet girls. Of course the lamp eventually got knocked over, and the globe broke into pieces. I think I actually cried over that one. I sat on the floor with the pieces and the lamp desperately trying to figure out how I might be able to fix it. My youngest daughter teared up to see me upset. It’s important to teach our kids to respect the things in our homes, but it’s just as important for us to foster our attachment with our children over our things.
Things are always going to break. The A/C is going to go out in the middle of the summer, a picture frame is going to get knocked off the wall—heck, I’ve even had the pull drawers in my refrigerator break (another kid-caused incident which I have yet to replace). But how we handle the little breaks in life is going to lay the groundwork for showing our kids how to handle the big ones.
As the saying goes, the way you do small things is the way you do everything. I sure hope I can make the small actions in my life influence the big things coming their way.