Sunday, January 5, 2014

"Don't Cry Over Spilt Milk"

is the mantra that runs through my head, when I'm trying to find a Zen place in the face of a day’s worth of toddler chaos. Unfortunately, a few hours into said day, I start talking back to the voices in my head.

“But this is the THIRD time she’s literally spilled her milk! You said I can’t cry. What about screaming? PLEASE let me scream, please! I’ll feel so much better,” I say plaintively.

Some days, I do scream….but I don’t feel better.

Other days, I remember that I actually subscribe to the philosophy that making messes is part of the process of learning. On good days, I teach my daughter a spirit of experimentation and a love of discovery, unencumbered by the fear of the outcome of her endeavors. I remember that I really love this quote from Roald Dahl.

(Dahl was referring to stuff like climbing trees, but giving a toddler a glass of milk qualifies as “risk” in my book.)

On good days, I give her the space to make messes, so she can learn to clean them up. I show her that mistakes can be opportunities and that mistakes can be fixed.

I am a believer.

What no one told me was how much tension would exist between my tolerance level for chaos and my philosophy about how to grow a healthy child and learner. 

How about when motherhood seems a feat of endurance? Bad days where the disaster around me seems to be keeping pace with my internal state of mind. Days when I feel less of an idealistic teacher and more like Sisyphus.

That's when it's best to let go the mantle of both idealist and Sisyphus. I need to strip away my beliefs about how things should go.

Nothing stands between Claire and me -- our relationship is at its most essential.

I see a child just being. I see a mom loving her child and her child's beingness very, very much.

At the heart of the matter, that's all we need to remember.

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  1. Definitely a feat of endurance! I agree! Sometimes it is super hard for me to stay calm, especially when my son can be as stubborn as I can be. When I lose the "calm" fight, I take comfort in the fact that my son is quick to forgive, and I try harder the next day. I also believe in coffee in the mornings and wine at night. :)

  2. Oh do I feel your pain. And it really doesn't stop. I completely subscribe to the same philosophy but am also at war with my need for order. Just wait until she starts climbing in the refrigerator to get her milk. Or insisting on using a tray to serve you dinner. Prepare now.

  3. When Boo was in Montessori her teachers used to say, great job dumping all the blocks on the floor. Now lets see if you can put them back in (she couldn't). I was always amazed at their unending patience.

  4. So true! We have to let them fail - small one and big ones - in order to let them learn. But it can be so hard on so many levels!

  5. Oh so true!! Your comment "What no one told me was how much tension would exist between my tolerance level for chaos and my philosophy about how to grow a healthy child and learner." is SPOT ON! That is something I still struggle with every single day. Love your approach of stepping back and seeing a child exploring the world and a mama who loves that child!!!

  6. That is so true! The all we need to remember part - just being. This is stunning and lovely! Pinning it!

  7. Wait how do I pin? Just w the URL???

  8. This made me tear up, I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I sat their helplessly while Henry threw his entire dinner on the floor last night. And because as soon as he went to sleep, I missed him. Love this. Stay warm, my friend.

  9. Letting go... I have so much trouble with that! My discomfort with chaos and mess does not serve me well as a mother. I am learning, though, and I wish his father (who is worse than I am) would learn, as well. The poor kid is afraid to do anything for fear of messing up, and that's just not fair to him.

  10. I've got so much to say that I feel I'm about to burst with excitement. Today I was sitting on the couch with 4 Year Old and milk was spilt and The Hulk emerged and I thought to myself (again) "What is it about milk/choc milk/water spillage that enfurriates me so much? Why, I would never think that this would become a THING!" Then I thought I should write about this. Then I read this and my heart leaped. Then I saw the word "Sisyphus" and my heart leaped even higher, because I've started two posts about that. LOVED, loved, loved and so happy you wrote this. I could never do it so beautifully!

  11. My son spills constantly, because he never pays attention. I should be more tolerant, I really should. One thing that helped is having him drink his milk after his meal, less chance for spilling because there's nothing in the way, but that's totally not the point here is it? I need to just let it go...

    This was, as all of your writing is, wonderful and something I really needed to hear. Rachel will you adopt me? :-D

  12. Oh - the milk, and the cheerios, and the juice, and the entire plate of dinner...the thing they all have in common: they spill...almost every time because our sweet little toddlers have slippery ungrasping hands. I like your take on this. I have a 3 year old and an almost 7 year old. Sometimes I look at my 7 year old and the hole where his perfect front tooth used to live, and I almost wish for spills again because it seems like only last week, his hands were slippery...but then my daughter spills her cereal all over the floor, and then I don't miss his spills...Sorry..wordy comment. Your post touched me today.

  13. I don't mind the messes w/the younger crowd. It's the TEENS who get to me. My daughter actually wiped her face with face cleaner pads and threw them on her bedroom to her garbage can. Oh, Rachel...those moments, lol. And then I remember how much I love my teen (and my previous teens before her) and that she will not always do such things, and my blood goes back down to normal (from a boil). Then I tell her to pick up her trash and calmly close the bedroom door so she can do it in peace. ;)

  14. Yes! I'm right there with you, especially being a control freak as I am. My daily focus needs to be "deep breath...okay now let it be." Messes can always be cleaned up, thanks for the reminder!

  15. I love that Roald Dahl quote, and I will try to remember it when I'm starting to feel my overprotective side creeping up again...

  16. Why ... why do making messes have to be part of the learning process? LOL
    I hate that fact that I'm such a control freak and I'm doing better at loosening up but like you, it's going to be a constant battle as we figure this whole mother thing out.
    Miss you mama .. .hope you are well!!

    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

  17. you totally put your finger on it - its that great chasm between what you know to be an appropriate response in terms of ideal parenting techniques, and the reality of my short temper when he does the thing I told him not to do for the 10th time!

  18. This---> "What no one told me was how much tension would exist between my tolerance level for chaos and my philosophy about how to grow a healthy child and learner. " Yes. I totally get that, Rachel. My threshold for chaos is in constant battle with my desire to be a patient, loving mother and "go with the flow." You captured so much here. Hope to jump back in with the SPP now that my "blog break" is over! Happy New Year!

  19. Wow! I guess being the parent definitely doesn't mean we're done learning! :)


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