The Day I Thought I Had It All Together and Was Proved Wrong
We were early in our homeschooling journey when it happened. The morning was progressing smoothly in preparation for starting our homeschool lessons. I was feeling pretty good about everything—being a stay-at-home mom, figuring out this homeschooling thing (it had been harder than I thought despite being a certified teacher), keeping my toddler daughter occupied while I helped my older daughter with her pre-K/K lessons, and staying on top of meal preparations, dishes, and laundry. I could do this.
Then I looked up to see my very independent older daughter lugging a half-gallon of apple juice across the kitchen. I offered to help, but she assured me she could do it herself. Rather than putting the apple juice on the table to take the lid off and pour it, she hugged the bottle to herself. She finally worked the lid off, and then, while she was trying to get the bottle into place to pour the juice, it slipped through her arms.
I saw it happening, but my brain wouldn’t communicate to my body fast enough for me to do anything about it. The bottle hit the linoleum floor, bounced once (thank goodness for plastic!), and a half-gallon of apple juice spilled out into the kitchen.
By the time I was able to move, there was nothing left to do but figure out a way to clean up the mess. After an unfortunate childhood incident involving a full bag of sugar, I already knew that there was going to be a lot of stickiness involved and that I had to be careful how I approached my current situation. What I didn’t consider as carefully was my approach to dealing with my daughter. Fortunately, that worked itself out. I learned a lot about parenting in the process, and I’m glad I learned it fairly early in our journey.
What a Half-Gallon of Apple Juice Taught Me About Parenting
- Staying calm really works. You always hear that it’s important to stay calm in tense situations. The look on my daughter’s face when she realized what her independent streak had created this time revealed that she knew this was a pivotal moment in our relationship. I wanted to raise my voice, ask her why she wouldn’t let me help, and cry (and I have done all of those things at one time or another both before and since this incident), but I didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because she looked as horrified as I felt, but I stayed calm. I talked her away from the huge puddle spreading across our kitchen and began laying out a plan of action for cleaning it up. She followed my calm lead, listened to my directions carefully, and responded quickly.
- Crisis moments are “teachable” too. I am always on the lookout for teachable moments with my daughter, and this one proved to be one of the biggest I had encountered so far. I modeled (this time, at least) how to respond to a stressful situation gracefully. She learned how to take big projects one step at a time, how using teamwork allows you to finish those projects more quickly, how to take responsibility for your actions and clean up your messes, and that making mistakes doesn’t cost you the love and affection of those who are important to you.
- It’s good to laugh in stressful situations. I don’t know why I thought that laughing would keep my kids from seeing the gravity of a situation, but having a half-gallon of apple juice on the kitchen floor showed me that’s not true. Somewhere in the middle of cleaning up that big mess, we both ended up laughing. It didn’t change the enormity of the task in front of us, and my daughter still realized that she had made a big mistake. But laughter did lighten the mood considerably and helped us get through the rest of the clean-up without falling apart.
- Your plans for the day are not what’s most important. I know we were already homeschooling then, so there were lessons on that day’s agenda, but I don’t remember one thing I taught her after we left the kitchen that morning. What I do remember is the apple juice incident. It was a good reminder that my agenda needs to be secondary to my relationship with my children. The relationship will be there long after they have become adults and moved on with their lives. I want us to have relationships with one another based on mutual love, respect, and real affection for one another, and that only happens when I take the time to handle each situation in a way that fosters that. Which means….
- I have to parent intentionally. I have to live my days deliberately, being proactive instead of reactive as life happens. My kids are watching. They are not only looking to see how I interact with them and respond to life’s frustrations, but they’re also looking to see how I interact with other people. Am I also kind to strangers, practicing both planned and random acts of kindness regularly? Do I serve in our community in ways that make a difference, whether small or large?
- Parenting is a lot more complicated than I thought. This situation turned out fairly well, but I was reminded that parenting is complex and hard and beautiful and wonderful—but I do NOT have it all figured out. I learned lessons that day that I still need, almost eight years later.
What lessons have difficult situations taught you about parenting?
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