February 4, 2013

The spilt milk story

Category: Being Parents

Have you heard of the spilt milk story? Well, then…here goes a story about it which I stumbled upon not too long ago on FB. I am not sure where original source was from, but I thought it is something worth a re-post:


Have you heard of the spilt milk story? Well, we all know there is no use crying over spilt milk. But this story is different. 

There was a story about a famous research scientist who had made several very important medical breakthroughs. He was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter who asked him why he thought he was able to be so much more creative than the average person. What set him so far apart from others? 

He responded that, in his opinion, it all came from an experience with his mother that occurred when he was about two years old. He had been trying to remove a bottle of milk from the refrigerator when he lost his grip on the slippery bottle and it fell, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor—a veritable sea of milk! 

When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture, or punishing him, she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?” 

Indeed, he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel, or a mop. Which do you prefer?” He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk. 

His mother then said, “You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the back yard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top near the lip with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. What a wonderful lesson!

This renowned scientist then remarked that it was at that moment that he knew he didn’t need to be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is after all, what scientific experiments are all about. Even if the experiment “doesn’t work,” we usually learn something valuable from it. 

Wouldn’t it be great if all parents would respond the way Robert’s mother responded to him? 

Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.

There goes a classic story to make a mother like me feel really, really incompetent about my parenting skills.

You see, I wish I could say that THAT was exactly what I did when an almost similar situation presented itself in which I should then give myself a pat on the back for such awesome parenting skills. Instead, my eyes glistened (just a little bit!) and I was riddled with guilt when I read that as, I was being reminded of an almost similar incident not too long ago. An incident, in which I should have responded in the “nicer” way.

The truth was, I didn’t. My head was filled with work, I was tired, I was exhausted and I had repeated myself very gently and calmly to Spud for the umpteenth time that the half-full 1 liter bottle was too heavy for her to be able to pour herself a cup of water all by herself.

Of course, Spud wouldn’t listen and of course! she refused to let go of the mineral water bottle, let alone let me help her without a massive temper tantrum. I had fully anticipated that she was going to spill everything when she tried to do it herself.

I tried telling her again as calmly as I could just before she opened the cap, but she chose to ignore me (I breathed in really hard to stop myself from exploding, but was already seething inside) as she stubbornly pursued on while I looked on. She could not carry the weight of the bottle (not surprising, considering the bottle is almost half her height!) and soon enough, everything overflowed out of the cup when she tipped the bottle over into her cup. Every.single.drop.of.water.

To add on to that, as she emptied out the bottle, she had also clumsily kicked the already filled cup and had almost slipped on the slippery floor.  Wait a minute – did I not see all these happening a mile away just 10 seconds ago? By this time, the “I told you so!” was right at the tip of my tongue.

I guess I could and I should have responded in the ”nicer way” as suggested by the article, but emotions (and fatigue) got the better of me.  I did the complete opposite – I shouted at Spud instead.

A shout loud enough to startle her, that she froze there and then.

Needless to say, I regretted my action the very second the high octave note left my throat. I could have handled it better and I didn’t. It was something I could not take back and I still feel quite bad thinking about it. It was a moment of weakness – a weakness which I hope she will never try to emulate. A weakness (or maybe stupidity), which I hope to never repeat.  

Give and take a month later, I wonder how much she would have remembered from that incident – she certainly hasn’t try doing it again since.  I hope that I have not scarred her for life and scare the crap out of her for losing my head as what she was just trying to do was just trying to show me some independence. She was learning, and being the mother that I am, and not a saint, I have essentially committed a parenting boo-boo. I sometimes tend to forget that she is only just 2.5 years old.
Source: Google images
I guess I just have to learn to pick my battles. It makes me realise that sometimes, I have to let some things slide, empower her, grit my teeth and watch her do things which would eventually resulted in me empowering myself with the fact that I am able to tell her a, “I (bloody!) told you so (goddammit)!” 

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