Monday, March 25, 2013

Nobody Wants to Spill a Drink

Foreword:  While I pull the final chapters of The Book together, I'll re-post once again. This one drew more hits than any I've written to date. It still makes me think about how we view a child's missteps. See you soon.

I was talking with my oldest son about someone I know who spills a lot.
“Spills a lot?” He asked.
“Some people trip. She spills.”
It was meant to be a throwaway, a relatable comment to which most people would respond: 
"I lose stuff,” or, “I drop things,” etc. But my son was thoughtful. “When I’m a parent, I’m going to make sure the one thing I do when my kid spills a drink is say, ‘no big deal.’”

When teenagers tell you they’ll let their kids hang around with anyone they want, or stay out until they feel like coming home, you shrug. When an adult child starts a sentence with, “When I’m a parent…” you brace.   

Then you personalize.

I rummaged through my mental archives, trying to recall the incident(s) which led to my son's pledge to his future child.

I said, “How often were we that upset over a spilled drink?”
“You weren’t,” he said, “But parents do it all the time. Scold kids for doing things they didn’t want to do in the first place. Nobody wants to spill a drink. It isn’t in anyone’s nature to want to spill anything. When it happens to my kid, I’m not going to punish him or her. I’ll be sympathetic.”

First, I smiled in my heart at the thought of my son being that kind of parent. Then I rummaged through my shoebox again until the subject changed.

It was timely insight, because the following night, as he hurried to get to a baseball function, my younger son backed into my car. I saw the whole thing. Saw him leap from the car and run up the stairs to the house, where I waited. He was holding his head, his eyes were like quarters. 

“I hit your car,” he said, “I am so sorry.”
“Let me take a look,” I said.
My car looked like it had coughed up its insides through the headlight. 
"Holy (bad word here). You certainly did,” I said.
“I’ll pay for it,” said my financially dependent child.
“No, but thank you,” I said. “Go do your dinner thing. We’ll talk about it later.”
“I’ll give you my car,” he said.
I hugged him and said, “I wish I didn’t know how you feel right now, but I do.”

Nobody wants to spill a drink.

I made him leave, grateful that he wasn’t hurt, grateful that this had occurred in our driveway and not in a busy parking lot, and, of course, grateful that I wasn't standing in front of the fender when he backed up.

Someday my son will probably have a child who drives into something. He won’t remember the lecture or punishment I might have come up with when it happened to him. But he will remember how he felt when his mistake created a loss for someone else. And maybe when his child is standing there holding his head, with eyes like quarters, waiting for the reaction that still won’t be as bad as the way he already feels, my son will offer a hug instead of something less useful.

It was the day before my birthday, a day my children find tedious because I already have everything I can use. And yet, smashed fender and all, didn’t both Sam and I wind up with something we can both use, thanks to a little gift of insight from Drew:

Nobody wants to spill a drink.


  1. wow............

    Jan has turned me onto your blog. I will not miss another day. I also invite you to visit mine if you are inclined:

  2. Dale, thank you so much. I never expect comments, I just like to put these things out there if I think someone can relate. I will be checking you out as well. xo.

  3. I absolutely love this post...insight is so much more than words. Thank you for "“But parents do it all the time. Scold kids for doing things they didn’t want to do in the first place. Nobody wants to spill a drink. It isn’t in anyone’s nature to want to spill anything. " I will be talking about this soon. Even grandparents do things like "spill" only in different forms.


  4. Thanks Barbara. It's amazing what I learn from my kids all. the. time...

  5. What kind hearted sons you have!

    I told mine that the spilling wasn't a big deal. Staring at it instead of cleaning it up was.

  6. My son just spilled his drink. He also spilled one this morning. I just snapped on him. We were watching the Leaf playoff game. I was angry and said “you are like clockwork”.

    He went to his room upset. I realized I was a massive a**hole. I googled “my son spills his drink all the time” and this came up.

    I feel horrendous. He feels terrible. All because he’s a regular 10 year old kid and I’m a 42 year old man that can’t control his emotions.

    Thank you for this blog post.