Heartbreaker

Image courtesy of fotographic1980/freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been fortunate enough to not have had my heart seriously broken before (aside from a few minor letdowns before anything really panned out). And I’m grateful to have only broken two hearts in my lifetime, and both incidents were more like hairline fractures than breaks. I’ve seen plenty of heartbreak occur though in the lives of people around me and know how tragic it can feel at the time and also how it affects one’s self-image and confidence in the long run.

I realized recently that while I may no longer be involved in breaking hearts in the romantic sense, I have way too many opportunities to do so in the parental sense. More specifically, I have broken my kids’ hearts when I choose to put my need for control and perfection above their good intentions.

I still remember the day my kids offered to help me mop the floor. (By the way, at our house mopping the floor = walking around with baby wipes under our feet.) The kids were having a great time helping out; they laughed as they “skated” around from room to room. Soon after E had finished mopping he walked over to the kitchen where I was and proceeded to help me wipe the counter … with the same baby wipe he had used to mop the floor. My first reaction was to yell, “STOP, don’t use that, it’s dirty!” in a stern, unforgiving voice. Immediately, his happy face crumbled before my eyes and he said he was done helping, and quickly left the room (to likely escape my impending wrath). I knew then that I had completely overreacted. Instead of appreciating his efforts, I had taken his giving little heart and crushed it with my controlling, ungrateful and negative attitude. Sigh! It was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way, but I learned it well.

Just the other day I had the chance to practice what I learned. In a moment of creativity (and possibly insanity), I set out to paint the downstairs bathroom – a job I thought would be simple enough to complete with two helpful kids. All the YouTube videos I watched made painting look straightforward and fast. What I didn’t understand was that those 5 minute videos didn’t show the other 2-3 hours it takes to do the prep work and the actual painting! (Note to self: next time don’t start a painting project right before lunch time hoping to complete it by lunch time.)

I gotta give the kids credit though – they worked hard and had fun while doing it. And I gotta give myself some credit, too. I kept my mouth shut and my controlling attitude in check the whole time (aside from one reminder to not use too much paint at once). It helped that I turned my head so I couldn’t see the paint trails running down the wall and tried not to listen to the sounds of the paintbrush slapping against the wall (instead of gliding over it in long, smooth strokes). It also helped to remind myself to enjoy the time we could spend doing something together and not worry about trying to make it all perfect. Because in the long run, it matters much, much more that my kids know I love them for who they are and not how perfectly they perform.

After we finished painting, E came up to me and gave me a Tootsie Roll from his prized stash of candy he had earned from school. I took his gesture as a sign that I had done a good job that day – not just at painting, but at parenting, too.

Yay for not being a heartbreaker. 🙂

Here’s the perfect song for this post, Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”.

What lessons have you learned from being a heartbreaker or having had your heart broken?