This is the new sign in my kitchen. It all started when I told my daughter I hated my life. Statements like that are excellent confidence and security builders – you should try them. You say something like that to your kid and stand back and watch them flourish.
I’m kidding of course.
It was a real humbling moment for me.
All summer our kitchen has been riddled with crushed cereal, half eaten fruit laying on counters and cabinet doors wide open with snack boxes ajar. Little ones eating in the living room and crumbing all over my rugs and furniture. Snack wrappers stashed under sofas and chairs… you get the picture.
One day while getting breakfast for everyone I ran downstairs to get some milk (because the fridge in our kitchen was not working) when I realized someone (not me) left the basement refrigerator door open all night. Everything gone. On my way upstairs I noticed a half eaten apple sitting on the basement floor. Ants all around.
Later that day the subsequent trip to Costco, post fridge disaster, was still stacked high on the counter when my oldest decided it was time to bake something. Trying to give her freedom to be a big kid I decided to let her continue. While I cleaned off the table and floor (by myself) from breakfast, lunch and snack, she was making a new mess on the small portion of the counter you could still see. Looking for help I glanced into the sitting room to find four other kids watching TV and playing on electronic devices while I was cleaning up their messes.
It was then that I reached my boiling point and words flew. I didn’t really mean what I said. I was just frustrated with the situation I found myself in. I had just then decided they should be helping me but I wasn’t making them, in fact, I wasn’t even asking them to. But I was mad they weren’t helping me anyway.
That night at my Bible study this statement struck me. “Your emotions are an indicator, not a determiner”.
OK, so my feelings don’t dictate, or determine how I must react. I am asked to have self control with my actions and words. That is a choice that I have to make in the moment and I take responsibility for that.
I know this, but I blow it once in a while. I’m not perfect and I’m not going to be perfect. Even God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. Ahhhh, sigh of relief.
But the most freeing piece of that statement was that my emotions are an indicator.
For some reason I have a very difficult time feeling justified in creating household rules based upon my feelings of frustration or irritation. When I am frustrated with some behavior going on in my home I feel like I need to “deal” with my emotion rather than changing the situation that is causing my frustration. So for me this was liberating to realize that my feelings of frustration over the constant state of my kitchen were an indicator that something was wrong in my home. And it was not only ok, but my job as mother, to change the situation.
In this case it was straight forward. I have the right to insist others clean up their own messes and respect our home and if they don’t they lose some privileges in the kitchen. While it isn’t ok for me to say hurtful things, it is ok for me to insist on some appropriate behavior around our home.
So for now the hours of operation were posted. This enables me to manage the meals and enforce the cleanup without hanging around my kitchen ALL DAY LONG.
I apologized to the kids that night for my actions and I prayed in front of them asking God for forgiveness as well. Then we discussed how out of control the kitchen had been lately and I told them the kitchen was going to have open hours each day until I knew people would clean up after themselves. I expected a lot of groaning and moaning, whining and complaining, but instead, I think they appreciated the boundaries. Imagine that.
We are all beautifully imperfect!