I made a conscious decision a few years back to do all I could to encourage autonomy in my children, even when it was inconvenient for me.
This means my house is often messy as they learn about caring for their own things by experiencing the consequences of not caring for their things. My planned schedule is often discarded as they learn about being organised and taking steps to be ready on time. My kitchen usually looks like a disaster zone because they are still perfecting the art of preparing their own food and cleaning up after themselves. It would be a lot easier for me to just come in and clean up after them, but I resist because I know the value of them learning these things for themselves.
This morning I paid a price for this decision. A 1kg box of cocoa powder was accidentally exploded in my kitchen. The person who had the accident was being a bit overly exuberant at the time. It happened just as everyone was coming into the kitchen to get breakfast. I am unwell and had a poor nights sleep, and have a heap of things to get through today.
I’ll admit it- I was livid.
Fortunately, and this doesn’t always happen, I remained calm. I enlisted the help of the older kids to keep small people out of the kitchen and to get the now cocoa covered child cleaned up while I set to work liberating the pantry and surrounds from its thick brown covering before it was spread through the house as people moved in and out of the kitchen. The stuff was everywhere. I had to move each individual item on the bottom 4 pantry shelves and clean it. I had to wash each shelf, the pantry doors, the floor, the walls. It took me an hour.
When I was finished I was approached by a very embarrassed looking child, who said, “Mummy I really wish that never happened and I’m very sorry for all of it”.
I have never been so glad I had kept my s*@t together. She was feeling terrible. She did not need me to tell her she had made a mistake. She did not need me to condemn her actions. She was doing a fine job of that all by herself.
We had a hug. I told her it was OK, I knew it had been an accident.
I do not always get this right. I know I have hurt my kids in the past, and I’ve no doubt I will do it again at some point. Parenting is a difficult balance of meeting the kids needs and/or your own. However, this morning I was reminded the importance of trying to do the best for them all the time.
Our kids do not need our judgement or our anger when they stuff up. They need our unconditional love and support as they navigate the difficult task of growing up.
Her mistake cost me some cocoa and an hour of my time.
A mistake in reaction from me could have cost her a damaged self esteem, her trust of me as a safe person in her world, and the chance to learn a positive lesson about what sort of parent she wants to be.
Some cocoa and cleaning time is a small price to pay.