“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, 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 would have been the recipient of much of the stress I was feeling that day.
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.