Want to get a barometer on your spiritual life and how serene you are? Have your child spill their glass at the dinner table? No, don’t ask them to, just wait. Eventually, the glass will spill because someone is screwing around or reaches for something or it gets set down on the edge of a plate.
Don’t tell me I’m the only one who has overreacted to spilled milk. It could even be spilled water. Until just the other day, I’ve always managed to make a mountain out of what I heard could be a mole hill. The other day, something happened. The water was spilled and my nine year old son quickly looked over at me. I was in the middle of talking to my wife, and I looked at him and said, “you better get something to wipe it,” calmly.
There was a perspective that loomed inside me during the day, focusing on what I’m passing on in my kids. Not so much what do I hope to leave them, but more so how will they remember me and what type of character am I modelling for them.
I don’t want them to remember me as their dad who blew up over a spill at the table. I also don’t want them blowing up over a spill at the table. How can I teach them to handle the small cracks in the sidewalk if I can’t handle them myself. Then, came the second round: my son grabbed the Ranch Dressing, shook it, and it flew out of his hands, hit the floor, and shot dressing all over the floor. He quickly looked over at me again.
With this perspective of what am I passing along to them, I was able to see the situation as it was. Silly. For the first time ever in my life, I was able to laugh. Now, I didn’t laugh at him outright but more of an I-can’t-believe-that-happened-but-accidents-happen sort of smirk. “You better get something to wipe it,” I managed to say again. Calmly.
There’s the saying out there, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” Really, when you think about it, everything pales in comparison to a health crisis. Is a spilled drink really grounds for getting huffy.
Patience is something that really can’t be taught through words. It has to be learned through osmosis, by modelling the behavior we want to see. How can I expect my kids to be patient with themselves if I’m not patient with myself.