Dripping through the cracks of the table, sticky maple syrup covered the floor of our little kitchen nook. In his quest for independence, my five-year-old son insisted on pouring his own syrup (from a brand new bottle) onto his pancake. The bottle slipped out of his hands and the result was one huge, sticky mess. Half a bottle of maple syrup emptied onto my kitchen floor and splattered onto the walls.
I could have easily come unglued. I could have yelled at my son and made him feel terrible for the mess he made. Earlier in my parenting, I would have. But I’ve learned some things in the 8 short years of being a mother. Kids spill things, and it’s never intended. I’m a 36 year old woman, and I still spill things and make messes sometimes. It’s frustrating and it creates work for us. But getting mad and making our kids feel bad doesn’t help the situation. And in the long run we may be hurting our kids. Our children’s hearts are more important than our need to let out our frustration.
Here are four things we can do to keep from coming unglued in those frustrating moments.
1. Fill yourself up with God’s Word and spend time talking with Him throughout your day. This is the only place you will be filled up with the joy and peace that you want to spill out into your day. If we skip this, we will most likely be spilling out stress, anger, and selfishness.
2. Slow down. One of the reasons the maple syrup incident was easy for me to let go was that we had margin in our day. We weren’t having to rush off somewhere immediately after breakfast, so I had time to clean up the mess.
3. Don’t overcommit yourself. When you are overcommitted to more things than you have time for, stress automatically becomes part of the dynamics of your life. You have less time to deal with unexpected messes. If you’re already overcommitted, take the time to figure out what you can edit. It will make a big difference for you and your family.
4. Lower your expectations. We need to give our kids room to be kids. I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect excellence from our kids, but we can’t expect perfection. They will make mistakes and mess up often, just as we all do, and we ned to make allowance for imperfection.
So what should you do when you do come unglued?
This can go a really long way in keeping your relationship with your kids open and strong. I’ll never forget a specific time several years ago when I was really short with my daughter while we were grocery shopping. She later explained to me that I had made her feel unimportant, and I immediately apologized and gave her a hug. I could literally feel the tension between us melt away in that moment.
I’ve had to apologize to my kids numerous times since then. They are always so quick to forgive. (Maybe we could learn some things from them about forgiveness, but that’s another topic for another time).
In the spirit of being real, I have to confess that just a few weeks after that maple syrup incident, my son spilled a slushy in the car, and I did have a little blow up that time.
Here’s the thing—we all mess up. We all make mistakes. We all expect too much out of our kids sometimes. And we all come unglued from time to time. So here’s what we do when we’re tempted to cry over spilled maple syrup: we do our best and allow God’s grace covers the rest.