YO MAMA: Putting it all in perspective
“Two more minutes, then it’s time to clean up!” Teacher Janet called.
I always got nervous when Teacher Janet, the instructor of our town's early childhood learning program, gave the two minute warning. It meant two things: 1) I would have to break the news to my toddler that free time was over and 2) I would need to figure out where all his toys were supposed to go. Deducing where all the plastic fruit, farm animals, toy cars and magnets belonged was kind of like a reverse needle-in-the-haystack situation that always made me sweat. I did my best and raced to the carpet for show’n’share.
My under-two toddler didn’t yet have the necessary communication skills to present something during show’n’share, so we just sat and watched. There were lots of eager little kids lining up to present their special things. When it was their turn, the kids got to sit in a special little chair right up front beside Teacher Janet and all the other parents tried to keep their children quiet, seated and still. There were usually mixed results and lots of aggressively cheerful “reminders” given out. I cheated by letting my kid play discreetly with a little toy car. It helped to keep his hands busy.
The kids were all holding it together while a little girl shyly held up a giant stuffed unicorn. Then, all of a sudden, one of the boys lunged forward, unable to control his excitement. OMG A GIANT UNICORN I HAVE TO TOUCH IT. This was common; kids always wanted a closer look, even if it was only a matter of inches.
The boy’s mom reached out to grab him, and in the process spilled her coffee all over the playmat. The mom let out a long sigh. To her credit, she kept it cool, first settling her son, then quietly heading to the sink.
“Is that coffee on the carpet?” Teacher Janet asked when the mom returned with a paper towel.
I held my breath. Was this poor mom, already mourning the loss of her precious caffeinated beverage, going to be “reminded” about not having drinks on the carpet?
“Oh good!” Teacher Janet said pleasantly. “I’m just glad it wasn’t something else.”
Something else? We were all wondering the same thing.
“Uh… What’s something else?”
“Oh it could be much worse,” Teacher Janet said matter-of-factly. “It could’ve been vomit or diarrhea. I’m just SO glad it was coffee.”
She smiled. We all laughed. Teacher Janet had defused the situation with compassion, humour and logic. How’s that for looking on the bright side? I thought about the smoothie my son spilled all over the counter that morning. At least it wasn’t vomit! The half-eaten apple I found behind the couch? At least it wasn’t poo! I knew I would be using this new phrase very, very often.
We all brought our kids to this parent and tot playgroup so we could help them learn the basics of sharing, cleaning up, following rules and being nice to other little humans. But we were learning too. Learning that everyone makes mistakes. That it’s OK to be gentle on ourselves. Accidents happen, and it’s better to look on the bright side than get down about it.
Thanks, Teacher Janet, for putting it all in perspective.
And sorry about the toy tractor shoved in with all the magnetic train cars.
— Charlotte Helston gave birth to her first child, a rambunctious little boy, in the spring of 2021. Yo Mama is her weekly reflection on the wild, exhilarating, beautiful, messy, awe-inspiring journey of parenthood.
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