Friday, April 14, 2017

Making it Right

If you screw up, you fix it.

That's a lesson I'm trying hard to teach my kids, but it's one I need to keep working on too.

Madison has become increasingly panicky when she makes a mistake that has more of a lasting impact (or honestly, even when it doesn't). She starts to cry, her brain immediately goes into crisis mode, and she seems paralyzed in fear. I'm not totally sure where it's coming from. We certainly don't encourage her to cause damage to the house, but we've also never come down so hard that she would be truly afraid. Supposedly it's normal for this age - she's grown out of the preschool self-centric phase where she doesn't necessarily get the far reaching implications, but not quite into the total logic of helping to fix problems.

We're working on it.

Last week, we were having a "picnic dinner" in the family room, watching a movie. We do this a lot when Adam is traveling. Officially, it's to make dinner special when Daddy is gone. Unofficially, it's because Mommy is exhausted at the end of the day and eating a quick fix meal on the couch seems like an easier choice than getting everybody together at the table. Normally, the girls can choose between milk and water when they eat dinner, but for some reason that I can't remember now, I let them choose a Powerade bottle from the basement. I do remember eyeing the bright red drink that Madison was sipping and warning her that she needed to keep the cap on when she wasn't drinking, and that it needed to stay on the coffee table where it wouldn't get kicked.

Halfway through the movie, I heard her start to panic.

Bright red Powerade was spreading into a huge puddle, soaking into the carpet, the blanket she'd been using, and generally all over the floor. And instead of moving one step, she was shrieking "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I don't know how that happened! I always do wrong things!"

Then my instincts started fighting between:
  • tired Mom getting upset, flipping out, and yelling "I TOLD you!"
  • worried Mom trying to calm her very upset child
  • frustrated housekeeper Mom wanting to attack that stain ASAP
And somehow, through miraculous grace, I managed to combine all three. Using a calm voice and telling her to go into the kitchen right away and grab towels. I showed her how to fold and soak without rubbing, using a calm voice to try and settle her. Once she was calmed down and focusing on fixing the problem, I pointed out that this was a lesson learned.

Once we finished the initial soak up and moved onto the carpet cleaner and stain removal piece, and we could speak calmly to each other, we talked as we worked about how to tackle an accident like this and make it right. I told her the story of how my car door opened directly into a friend's brand new car, and scratched the paint. I panicked because it was a big problem on something really expensive. I wanted to run away and just never see her again because I was so embarrassed. But I forced myself to find a way to help make it right.

It always helps Madison, not only to hear stories about me when I was a kid, but to hear stories about me now. And really, stories like this aren't that uncommon. When we first moved into our house, all spic and span and filled with brand new furniture, a friend spilled a glass of red wine at our housewarming party. A car missed our driveway backing out at night and tore up the grass badly. I didn't remember that Adam had moved his car directly behind mine, and in my newborn baby sleep deprived state, I backed directly into him, damaging both cars.

You feel bad. You feel embarrassed. You want to run. Your brain panics.

BUT, I reminded her, these are problems with solutions. You clean the carpet. You call the insurance (I do actually still get some good natured ribbing about this one.) You offer to help fix the lawn. You fix the scratch.

You clean up the Powerade.

You don't panic, you make it right, and you learn that people are generally pretty kind about accidents, when you're willing to jump in and help.
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