Saturday, April 20, 2013

Who's Crying Over Spilt Milk?

magnets on my fridge remind the Tribe of our new rule

I like, most parents, will take any opportunity to brag about my kids. I mean if I can work it into a conversation without looking like one of THOSE moms, I'll freely admit that my kids are pretty awesome.

They get above average grades, they generally go to bed without a fight, love to read, excel at most things they try and, outside of the normal sibling squabble, they are kind to others.

That being said, they tend to lack a certain level of common sense. It's as if they sometimes forget the brain in their own head. 

I know this to be true because whenever I catch my naughty children I ask, "Why did you do that?” and I always get the universal and highly predictable response; a shoulder shrug with an occasional, "I dunno!"

At first I thought they were too afraid to speak up when I pressed them for an answer. I assumed that maybe they were frozen in terror and unable to verbalize a response. Now I've come to the conclusion they are actually telling me the truth. They don't know what they were thinking because they couldn’t have been thinking about the consequence of hanging from the basement rafters, tying the dog's collar to the window blind or using the water heater as home plate during an intense game of whiffle ball. 

So for as smart as I think my kids are, apparently the part of the brain that regulates their reasoning is a tad bit stunted.

Recently, while unloading groceries the kids began a bucket brigade tossing food down to each other as if they were sandbaggers saving the world from a flood. Before I could open my mouth to stop them, my son tossed a gallon of milk to his sibling and in that instant real time paused and slow motion began. I watched in horror as the milk flew threw the air, slipped through the hands of my teenager and landed with a splat, exploding all over the driveway.

Ballistic might be the best word to describe my reaction.

After ranting and raving, threatening to charge them the $3.68 they just "threw away" and declaring all cereal eaten in the next week will be served dry, we - and I can't believe I'm actually going to admit this - instituted a 'no throwing milk' policy in our home.

I mean, who has to do that?

This past Saturday, as we ritually do every weekend, the kids were helping me unload the groceries. This time I was the one grabbing the bags and I set them inside the door for the kids to carry into the house. When I reached for the milk I failed to anticipate the moisture that accumulated on the handle and when I lifted it up out of the van the entire gallon slipped through my fingers and crashed all around my feet. 

Everyone froze. My children stood stunned with their mouths agape. I watched as five sets of big, round eyes looked from the milk to me and back to the milk again. It was deafeningly silent except for the glub-glub of the flowing dairy. 

Suddenly sensing a very important moment I hesitated before reacting. Everything I imagined myself saying sounded incredibly hypocritical even to my own ears, so how could I expect my children to understand that because of the circumstance leading up to the busted gallon of milk their spilt milk was grievous while mine was a mistake? And that's when I realized accidents happen with and without the use of common sense.

Later at the dinner table I broached the subject of the spilt milk. "Yeah," my son said, "you would have laid into us if we would have done that." 

"Good thing good I can't yell at myself," I chuckled. 

"You're lucky you're the mom," said my youngest.

"Right," chimed a third, "like that time she spilled her water at the restaurant. We would have gotten in trouble but she never does!"

They were right. When I do something on accident I have a good excuse for my behavior but rarely do I offer that same grace to others.

Have I really belittled them in my attempt to make them more careful? If I have, shame on me for I know better than to think that discouraging my children would ever be an effective way to teach them how to be responsible. I must be better about making sure my good intentions towards my children are reflected in my reactions.

So while I was the one who learned a valuable lesson that day can I just go on the record stating that whoever coined the phrase, "There is no use crying over spilt milk" probably didn't have five kids who go through a gallon a day? Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why.

Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District. She’s happy to report that she never did enforce the dry cereal punishment. She can be reached for parenting questions or comments at

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