As I enter the room there’s apple juice everywhere. I feel anger bubbling up, part of me wants to shout.
“This is why we don’t play with balls inside the house!!”
“This is why I asked you ten times NOT to do that”
But I hold my tongue. I look down and a little face with very big eyes is looking up at me with a slightly worried expression, waiting for my reaction.
I want to scream, but I don’t.
“Oh well, these things happen.”
He sighs and agrees.
These. Things. Happen.
Three words, a simple concept, but a powerful message to send to my child in this moment.
He helps me to get a cloth and spray to clean up the mess.
“I’m sorry,” he says as we mop up the spilled juice, completely unprompted. “I shouldn’t play ball in the house really should I. I’ll play outside next time.”
I smile. A natural consequence, and a lesson learnt – no more ball games in the house (for now). But this was about more than the ball, more than the spilt juice.
It was about making a mistake, and being able to come to me without fear of anger or consequence. It was about allowing him the space to realise for himself that he didn’t make the best decision, without input or judgement from me. It was about showing him that any problem can be solved if we work together.
It was about learning that these things do happen. That mistakes will be made, accidents will occur. We sometimes act silly or get carried away, and we do something we wish we hadn’t done. And it was about learning that no matter how big the mistake or how bad of a decision it was, I will always be there to help pick up the pieces. He can always come to me for help cleaning up the mess. Once the mess has been cleaned or the problem has been solved we may talk about how to avoid it happening again, but by then emotions will be much easier to control.
By biting my tongue, by swallowing my anger or my annoyance at the spilt drink I have shown him the same thing I’d want my loved ones to show me. People make mistakes. Accidents do happen. Juice gets spilt. And when it does, however big or small the mess, he can come to me for help. He doesn’t have to fear my anger or disappointment, he knows that whatever it is we will solve together without punishment or shame.
So the next time he kicks a ball inside the house and knocks over a drink, or worse, we will both remember – these things happen. What matters is what happens next.