Do you ever wish you responded differently to events in your day?
I’ll go first: YES. Yes, I do. Many, many events sometimes, both big and small. But sometimes I surprise myself and have exactly the attitude I wish I could always have. I’d love to say it had some kind of direction correlation to something (like maybe spending time that morning reading the Bible) or had a practical tip I could attach and share (like counting to four before responding). In all honesty, I sometimes just happen to get it right.
This week, the boys broke our bathroom window. I was at the kitchen table with the girls, which overlooks the backyard. Rob and the boys were throwing frisbee out after dinner while the girls and I colored. (This sounds idyllic, but please note that this was after a dinner of complaining and food-throwing and all the normal things you’d expect from a house with 2, 3, 6, and 8 year olds.)
I knew EXACTLY what the noise was when I heard it: the shattering of our bathroom window. Death by frisbee.
Rob’s face was priceless as he slowly turned with wide eyes to look at me through the big kitchen window. He stared at me and the boys stared at me, all of them with gaping mouths, waiting for my response. Then these words came out of my mouth:
“It’s just a window.”
The relief was visible on all three of their faces. Lincoln, the one who threw the frisbee, was still a little distraught as Rob used the shop vac to clean it up. “How much will it cost?” he asked. “I’m so sorry! Can I pay for it? It’s my responsibility!” (Seriously, I wish more people had the attitude of my 6-year-old.)
“Do I look upset?” I asked him. “I’m not. It’s just a window. We’ll fix it. You didn’t mean to do it and you don’t need to feel bad about it. Let it go.”
And I truly meant all this. I mean, it’s an inconvenience, yes. We have a pile of medical bills hurtling inevitably our way like Sharknado 5. Buying another window is not something we welcome.
But the boys were playing with their Dad. No one was being irresponsible. A frisbee sailed through the window. The end.
So much of the time, I don’t react like this. Especially and oddly to the LITTLE things. Broken windows, I’m cool. Spilled milk and cereal every morning, NOT COOL. I get irritated and annoyed and fussy and get all over my kids about all kinds of things that really matter way less than this broken window.
“I was really surprised by your reaction,” Rob told me, which spoke volumes to me (even though he truly didn’t mean anything bad by it) about how I normally react to things.
Which makes me really eager to work on my attitude and apply the Broken Window Principle (as it shall henceforth be called) to the spilled milk in the morning and the spilled ice and water in the afternoon and all the little accidental messes and annoyances that occur basically all-day, everyday in my home.
The Broken Window Principle
Here’s the thing about broken windows: once they are broken, they are BROKEN. There is no way back to a time that would keep them from being broken. There are no words I can say to change what already happened. We can only move forward from the broken window. I can choose to make people feel terrible about an accident, or I can let it be what it is: a minor annoyance that in a year or a month won’t matter.
I’m learning more and more that my reaction to things as a mom MATTERS. A LOT. I’ve heard it said that moms set the tone in the home and in a lot of ways, I see that as true. My mood is really contagious. So is my attitude. This little window held a big lesson for me, revealing how EASY it was to not care and not shame my kids about something insignificant in the long run. It felt wonderful. I wish I could respond this way to all the things, all the time.
(Note: if my kids had broken the window on purpose, or even accidentally but irresponsibly, like tossing the frisbee right in front of the window, we might have had added conversations and consequences.)
So I’ll encourage you with the thing I’m using to encourage myself. Remember that IT’S JUST A BROKEN WINDOW. Whatever it is, big or small or medium. If it’s already broken, it’s already broken. See it in the scope of the long game, take a deep breath or a moment to compose yourself if needed, and then do what you need to move forward. Don’t shame your kids or yourself. Take it in stride and do what it takes to move to the next thing.
After all, it’s just a broken window.
Have you ever had a situation where you reacted either better than expected, or where you really regret how you handled it? Share your story in the comments! I bet we can ALL relate.