“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Everybody knows there’s no use crying over spilled milk… but how about spilled yoghurt? A few evenings ago, I was in the kitchen with my 2 ½ yr-old son. We were getting dinner ready when he asks his favourite kitchen question: “Can I look in the fridge?” ‘Please wait a moment,’ I reply. In he goes (I guess he didn’t hear me…:-) and before you know it, SPLAT. Yoghurt is all over the floor and kitchen rug. He looks at me. I look at him. With wide eyes, he does nothing but waits for my reaction. Surprisingly, I do the same. I wait. No deep breath, no counting to ten, just waiting, still. But while I am waiting, I am not reacting.
After a few moments, much to my (pleasant) surprise, I laugh. Laughter becomes my reaction and I then see my son relax into laughter as well. I am so pleased that I didn’t automatically react to a toddler’s accidental mess with anger and frustration. I sure wouldn’t want someone to do the same to me. I spill things all the time – and mostly don’t get scolded… Accidents happen and it makes sense that they will happen more with toddlers who are still learning about gravity and basic physics.
Had I automatically reacted, it would have been about so much more than spilled yoghurt! The rest of my stressful day would have been layered into the reaction – stress over having to face up to a mistake I made at work, stress about finances, stress about the uncertainty about my future professional direction – just a few small issues, to say the least! And my sweet son, who just happened to spill some yoghurt, would have been the recipient of much of the other stress I was feeling that day. How is that fair?!?
Instead, I opted for another possibility – laughter. I don’t know if it was a conscious choice, but by not automatically reacting, a moment opened up for more possibilities to emerge. I laughed. My son laughed. We cleaned up the yoghurt mess together – I had to remind him on numerous occasions that we clean up yoghurt with a cloth and not our feet – and then we went outside and played ball for a while. The yoghurt washed away much quicker and easier than the potential guilt that would have followed from a more automatic, angry reaction. Laughter instead of anger -just imagine the possibilities that this kind of reaction to frustrating moments could open up! After this incident, much of the stress of the day washed away as well…
And now I am left feeling a little grateful for the spilled yoghurt. But mostly, grateful for the lovely evening that followed with my son.