The other day, as we were rushing around the house to get ready for work and school, I told my daughter to either finish her eggs or, if she was full, to put her plate by the sink. She got up to clean her spot and I heard her plate ricochet off the floor.
As I turned to find a good portion of her eggs ALL OVER THE FLOOR I made a split second decision as to how to react.
I said, “Come here and hug me.” She looked at me like I was crazy. I repeated, “Please give me a hug. I need to hug you so I don’t kill you.”
And then we laughed and hugged and I sent her away so that I could clean up the mess.
Normally after a parenting win like this, one where I stifled my anxiety and anger, and allowed a mishap to have little control over my happiness, I would feel proud. I would give myself a little pat on the back about how I conquered spilt eggs with humor.
This day was different, however.
Throughout the day I found myself beating myself up over past spills where I did not react with grace.
Clearly this morning had proven that I was capable of a calm, relaxed reaction, so why had I failed all of those other times.
I found myself going over the time that my son had spilt milk four mornings in a row, and how by that fourth morning I had HAD it.
Why hadn’t I just stayed calm, used humor, accepted that we are all big messes just trying to get by? Why had I let the milk win those times, but I was able to defeat the eggs this time?
Well, my imperfect answer to those questions that tried to haunt me, is that I too am imperfect.
Just like my kids who spill things, my emotions sometimes fly right out of my hands and the more I try to control their direction, the more they get away from me.
Other days I am able to take a deep breath, realize how inconsequential a mess really is, and make a joke about it, the same way that some days my children can sit at the table and eat without spilling their meals all over.
I sat back and thought again about the spills that have gone wrong, the ones where I yelled, got upset, and even cried.
I remembered that after the ugliness that I allowed out, I always apologized.
I always explained that accidents happen to us all, but that it is important to try and be more careful next time. I explained to them that I let my emotions get the better of me, but I told them that I would try better next time, just as I expect them to try and be more careful next time too.
So this was the next time, and I had done better.
I had learned from my mistakes, and I had reacted in a way that I could be proud of. It took me a long time, and too many spills, to get there, but I got there.
Just as I’ve shown pride in my children about spilling less often, I needed to give myself that same grace this time.
I don’t always react the way I want to. I probably won’t always get it right in the future.
But, I’m trying really hard to do better. I’m an imperfect little mess, trying to show my imperfect children that it’s okay to be imperfect little messes and that we can love ourselves through all of it.