Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spill The Milk

Yesterday, little boy dropped a full glass bottle of milk on the tile floor.

It shattered, and the spill radius of milk fairly sufficiently covered most of the kitchen and dining room.  It took a good long time to clean it up. The whole time his little feet were running back and forth to the laundry room to grab more towels.

Every so often, he'd stop and stare at me for a second, fidget with his hands behind his back and quietly ask me if I was mad.

I always told him no. Of course not.

Then I'd ask him in return to make sure that he didn't have any cuts on his feet and to stay back so he didn't step on the glass.

He was afraid he was in trouble.

I was afraid he was hurt.

As I sat on the floor in the middle of the afternoon using the light streaming in from the windows to make sure I got every tiny shard of glass, I remembered.

When I was a little girl, as Mini-Me is now, I tended to overreact about little things just like she does. I would spill milk, rarely, and the first few times I remember doing it I cried. Literally, I cried over spilled milk. 

One night at dinner, my Dad spilled his milk on purpose, just to make a point.

He waited and watched for my reaction. 

He didn't react at all. He just sat there. I was confused. I was probably about the age Mini-Me is now.

After a while of this bizarre silence, us sitting around a table pooled with milk, he shrugged his shoulders then got up and grabbed some towels. He asked me to help him clean it up.

Mom, on the other side of the table, held the plates up and wiped everything down with a wet dishcloth.

When it was all cleaned up, they both just said that sometimes life is messy. There's no point getting upset about little things like this, just clean it up. 

They didn't freak out. They didn't cry. They weren't angry. They just fixed it.

How much in life is like this? How many things do we spend time worrying about, being upset about, being angry about, but do nothing to fix them? How much energy do we waste on the things that don't deserve it, how many things can we just seek solutions to instead of over thinking?

Probably a lot more than we realize.

As I sat on the floor scavenging for the last pieces of glass under cabinets, it all came back, this lesson my parents taught me so long ago.

Sometimes life is messy. Don't worry about the small stuff. Just clean it up.

You never really appreciate how right they are in the moment, maybe not even for years or decades afterwards. These people, though, they had far more wisdom than we realized. Those lessons, whether we realized we learned them at the time or not, they're in there. Sometimes it just takes spilling the milk to remember.

Mom always said that if it wasn't going to matter ten years from now, then it shouldn't be a big deal now. There is a lot of truth in that, and it's something I try to remember as I parent my own children. Far too often we get caught up in the minutia of life, spend too much time worrying about the stuff that isn't worthy of so much attention.

I finished wiping the floor down, thanked my parents for the lessons they taught me, scooped up my little boy and went on with my day.

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