When my daughter was around four years old she was painting in her playroom and I decided to go lay down for 20 minutes knowing she was perfectly content and safe. After my quick power nap, I ran downstairs anxious to see her work of art. When I walked into the room, the display was in full effect. Paint was splattered on the desk, the floor, the carpet, and all over the wall and herself! She was unabashed in her fun and relished in the glory of her freedom of expression. But I quickly squashed the fun and became very upset with the disaster that lay before us. I spent the next couple of hours cleaning the mess and muttering under my breath about how disappointed I was and how disturbing it was that she would have been so irresponsible. That memory is still etched into her mind and mine. At the end of the day, no one got hurt and all was well, but we both learned a lot along the way.
I was emotional, unforgiving and very upset. It was actually not she who I was upset with, it was myself. How could I have left her unattended expecting that everything would go well? I was really fortunate that a multitude of things did not happen—her eating the paint, climbing on the bookcase and her falling, or worse, the bookcase falling on her. In fact, when I was cleaning, it was disappointment in myself that got me all upset. It was my responsibility to keep an eye on her—my fault (first and foremost). I explained to her how I made a huge mistake by leaving her alone. Although nothing bad happened, it could have been bad, really bad. Despite my grave mistake, thankfully she was unscathed. But, I let her know what a big miscalculation her mommy made.
As a result of my being so forthcoming and accepting responsibility, her little self felt courageous enough to admit that she should not have misbehaved. She was having so much fun that she actually did not care. In the end, my daughter learned about right and wrong, being careful and respectful and we both helped make it right. In the grand scheme of things there are bigger issues and problems than this, but I use a benign example to show how we all can do better, learn and recover.
There have been plenty of situations that we have all encountered that were close calls, but we must never miss the opportunity to learn even when we were lucky. After this incident, I have become more mindful than ever about safety, responsibility, watching my tone, and taking the privilege of parenting seriously.
Sometimes, all it takes is for us to look more closely at the writing (or paint) on the wall and see what it is here to teach us.