No More Crying Over Spilled Milk : A Story About Breaking A Cycle in Motherhood

No More Crying Over Spilled Milk : A Story About Breaking A Cycle in Motherhood

Earlier this year I had a profound experience in parenting – one in which I got to see a cycle from my past be broken before my eyes.

My daughter had picked a flower out of a bouquet we had and asked if she could put it on the nightstand in her room in a glass of water. At the time, she was newly 4 1/2 and I knew that the chances that this cup of water would wind up knocked over and spilled on the floor was high. At the same time though, I tried to remember it was just water and it was sweet that she wanted to have her own flower displayed in her room. So I said, “Yes, we can do that. You need to be careful with it so it doesn’t spill. But if it does spill, please let me know right away so I can help you clean it up.”. The last thing I wanted was for it to spill and for her to not tell me, especially if the water got on something it shouldn’t – like the wire for her lamp or a book. She agreed and proceeded to put her flower into the cup of water and proudly displayed it on her nightstand.

A few nights later, after saying goodnight, I settled in the living room and started to watch my show while my daughter was in her room playing quietly before bed. A couple of minutes later she walked out of her room, calm as could be, and said

“Mama, the cup of water spilled. Can you help me clean it up?”

Now I’ll be honest with you, my immediate reaction was a rush of adrenaline and the thought “I knew this would happen.” The adrenaline is a muscle memory because of a childhood experience that I had, which I will share below. But almost as fast as I had that thought, I realized that my daughter was … incredibly calm. She wasn’t afraid to tell me that she made a mistake. We simply grabbed a towel, cleaned up the mess, and moved along with our night. It was so validating to have this experience because it is proof that the hard work of conscience parenting works. Kids don’t have to be yelled at or worse, hit to learn or listen. My daughter probably won’t even remember that night. But I always will.


Because when I was her age, something similar happened but the reaction I was met with at my mistake (spilling milk all over the kitchen floor) was not an adult kindly telling me we could just clean it up. Instead, it is a core memory that I will never forget. I made a mistake and I was made to feel bad about it. And after that, I still made mistakes, because all kids do. But I always felt I had to quickly hide them so I wouldn’t get in “trouble.”.

There are so many layers to parenting. It’s beautiful. It’s hard. It’s fulfilling. It’s triggering – and we don’t talk about that part of it enough. Sometimes my child does things that I know I would’ve gotten in big trouble for when I was a kid. As an adult and a parent now, I’m realizing, these things are not worthy of getting yelled at or hit for. Kids make mistakes! They are human. Do we yell at our friends, co-workers, and partners every time they make a mistake? Of course not. Why shouldn’t we give children the same basic respect? A spill or a messy room is not the end of the world. We can teach our kids to learn from their mistakes and also to ask for help.

My daughter spilling the glass of water was an accident, an honest mistake. I realized that day when she wasn’t afraid to come to me about the spilled water, that I had broken a cycle. I had taken a moment to respond, to make sure I did so appropriately, and I taught her a valuable lesson. Does this mean she will never spill something ever again? Of course not. But now when she spills something, she lets me know, and then she gets a towel and cleans it up. She knows that it’s safe to come to me and ask for help (as it should be!). That to me, is far more important than having a child who never spills something, or who always listens out of fear.

♡ Sending you love & light,

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