A few months ago, my daughter, Tiny Dancer (then five), was building Legos at the kitchen table. She’d been at it for some time, meticulously crafting a castle, building vehicles, and setting up an elaborate world of her own creation. She spoke not a word while she thoughtfully constructed her masterpiece. Truly, I didn’t take much notice of her work at the time. I was busying myself with other things. Then, it happened. Whether a slip of her hand, a shake of the table, or just a faulty design I do not know, but the whole thing crashed, splintering everywhere.
- Tiny Dancer: <distraught> Ahhh!
- Me: Oh crap! Okay, we’ve got to get these off the floor before your little brother gets them. Please, be more careful.
I helped her tidy up. Truthfully, I felt inconvenienced. This wasn’t what I’d been hoping to spend my afternoon doing. A few minutes later, more pieces fell on the floor.
- Tiny Dancer: Oh no!
- Me: You’ve got to be more careful, honey! Watch what you’re doing.
A minute later, it occurred to me that I was being a jackass. She didn’t say one word to me about being careful when I knocked over the garbage pail. When I dropped her favorite DVD on the floor, she didn’t scold me. She didn’t criticize me when I spilled coffee on the table. No one bitches at me when I make a mess. In fact, generally the children fall all over themselves offering assistance.
When her Lego creation fell on the floor, she knew full well what’d she done. She didn’t need me to point it out. She was distraught. She’d spent half an hour building it. Her work was now in ruins. And, on top of that, her dad was being pissy with her. I apologized to her. Profusely.
- Me: I’m sorry I was grouchy with you. I know you didn’t try to make a mess. You were working so hard on your creation.
- Tiny Dancer: It’s okay.
Reminding a toddler to be careful with a cup of juice is one thing. Asking a youngster to take extra caution with plates or glasses is understandable. But too often, we jump to the conclusion that a child wasn’t being “careful” when in fact their “carelessness” is simply a matter of their age, ability, and inexperience.
She was being careful, but she’s five. Accidents happen. Just like they do with adults. When I mess-up, I don’t appreciate someone pointing out my errors. She didn’t deserve it, either.