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Once upon a time, when my daughter was about three years old, I had set up a shelf in the refrigerator, and one in a cabinet that my daughter could reach. The cabinet had utensils of plastic, napkins, etc, that she could use on her own, and the fridge shelf had juice boxes and appropriate other snacks she could also take on her own. The theory being she was learning limits, independence, responsibility, and self-esteem. The truth being, she is rebellious, independent and had a percentage of failures ending in a mess to clean up along with tears. That ensuing mess was also generally, according to my then wife, my fault. I did have the tendency to encourage my daughter by laughing at most things she did. ( I am willing to own partial responsibility for some things.) My daughter also had the ability to say daddysaidicould, before she learned to say, daddy. Also in my house at this time, if I was watching sports sprawled out on the couch, a bulk of the game was known as daddynaptime. During daddy nap time, if my daughter wanted me for something, she would come real close and open my eyelid. If she didn't want me but needed to know if I was asleep, she would come real close and just stare for several seconds. One day, she did the latter.
Figuring I was asleep, and her mom was in the other room, my daughter went into the kitchen, grabbed a stool that was too big for her, opened it, dragged it to the cabinets, climbed up, grabbed an adult cup (plastic), climbed down and put the cup on the counter. She opened the refrigerator, dragged the too big stool to the refrigerator, climbed up and grabbed a liter of soda pop (plastic). Climbed down, and on the way down, dropped the liter. It scared and stunned her until she realized it did not spill because the cap was on it. She picked up the liter and put in on the counter, next to the cup. Back to dragging the too big stool now to the counter, climbed up, put the cup in position, opened the liter of pop, and proceeded to pour. Immediately, cup, soda, and daughter disappeared from my view, with my likely assumption there was a crying daughter and spilled soda, both on the floor. I also figured in about a second, I was going to hear about, and be blamed for, what just happened. I immediately jumped up to head off this scenario, and the kitchen and daughter both, were exactly the mess as expected. What happened next though, wasn't expected.
My daughter, not noticing me, with an angry tone uttered a four- letter expletive. She then got up off the floor, pointed her finger and said bad soda. She hesitated, unsure of the next right thing, and proceeded to sit on the stool and started to cry. Still, without noticing me, she quickly got off the too big stool and went into the other room with tears in her eyes. Obviously to tell her mother, daddysaidicould, and be off the hook. I proceeded to utter to myself the same four-letter expletive I just heard out of my daughter's mouth. (I stated earlier I have partial responsibility for some things.) My daughter though, returned alone, carrying a couple of our good towels and a look of determination. She wiped up the floor and counter with our good towels (sort of), picked up the cup, put it on the counter. Picked up the liter bottle with some soda remaining, and told the cup not to move. Put the bottle on the counter, dragged the too big stool to the counter, climbed up, poured the soda perfectly into the cup and drank the soda. With a smack of her lips, a burp, and the sound of AAAHHH, she climbed down the too big stool and left the kitchen. I faked back asleep on the couch. She came real close and stared. Content I slept through the whole thing, off she skipped.
My three-year-old daughter, by instinctive nature, went through the entire grieving process in a matter of a couple of minutes. She denied (blamed the soda), showed anger (swear word and finger pointed scolded), was sad (sat and cried), bargained (told the cup how it was going to work), accepted (cleaned up, sort of), and she even did what we separate and include as its own category in the grieving process, transcended (she poured and drank a new cup of soda). So go ahead and cry over spilled milk. And like my three-year-old daughter, cry just once, clean up, and pour yourself another glass.
And for those of you interested, it wasn't too long after, my then wife wanted to know what the heck (OK, my daughter's expletive is on me), I did to the kitchen, and why were our good towels filthy, and hidden in the trash. (Sort of.) I looked at my daughter, who looked at me. I knew she knew, I knew. I held back with an I don't know, (Harry Chapin just came to mind.), and was told I was never allowed in the kitchen again. My daughter said to her mother, she would always get me something if I wanted, as long as it was on a shelf she was allowed to use.
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