Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Lessons of Spilled Tea

The other morning started out like any other morning. I had plans for the day. We didn't have to go out as early as usual, so I had time to work more intently with my little one. The best-laid plans fell flat on the floor. As I was getting myself ready for the day upstairs, I heard a frantic scurry in the kitchen and banter of blame between siblings. In the attempt to reach the OJ at the back of the fridge, my little one mistakenly ill placed the FULL gallon container of iced tea and watched it tumble onto the floor leaving its contents widespread in my kitchen.

After assessing the situation from the top of the stairs, I did something strange – I didn't go downstairs. Lesson one: My kids knew what to do. I didn't have to supervise or get myself riled up because of the mess. I did, however, need to have the towels washed immediately so that my good towels would not be tea stained, but my kids can do laundry too. Problem assessed and resolved – or so I thought.

I looked in the fridge for something for breakfast for myself and noticed the puddles of tea surrounding the jars in the door. The tea had also settled in the bottom of the fridge under the produce drawers. Droplets of tea were visible on most everything. UGH!! This cleanup was not over, nor would it be quick. Lesson two: cleaning the outside of the mess is often easier than making sure that the inside is clean.

My little one stalled in her help, which of course drove her siblings nuts. Lesson three: many times our messes require us to clean up, but they also may need others to jump in with a towel or two.

She was not in trouble per se, but this tea accident provided great material for a teachable moment on consequences. Princess, little one, and I proceeded to take everything out of the fridge and wipe it all down. Every drawer and shelf needed to be cleaned. Thankfully, there was not much stocked, as I needed to go grocery shopping. This cleanup took time out of my precious schedule. Yet, as I looked deeper at the matter, I began to understand that my little one was going to learn something other than math and reading today. Lesson four: I need to be on the lookout to use the inconvenient to conveniently teach.

As her little hands dried jars of salad dressing, gallons of milk, and tubs of butter, she began to understand something. Lesson five: Her actions were not malicious, yet her mess affected many people. She was not punished, but she needed to be a part of the solution to the problem. She also saw a great picture of how messes often get into the nitty gritty of things intertwined within what we think is ordinary. These messes are not often easily cleaned up.

I now have a clean fridge – at least for a few days. The rest of the day went on as normal, if there is such a thing. I was able to teach my daughter that day as I stood by the sink. More importantly, God taught me how to be a better mom. These lessons were not just for my little one.

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