so heres a thing my mother always said to me growing up when i broke something on accident that i think is really important
and i know, from watching my friends and seeing their panic and terror when something broke, that not only were not nearly enough children told this thing, many children were punished in place of being reassured
and thats heartbreaking
so heres the words from my mom that i was always told, and theyre the same words that anyone who never got to hear them should hear now, courtesy of my mom, who has repeated those same words to many a friend of mine and now to you
if i ever broke anything, the first words out of her mouth would always be and have always been, “are you hurt?”
i would say no
she would say, “thats okay, then”
and i would ask why
and she would say “because it was just a thing- even if its a nice thing, or an old thing, or an expensive thing, its still just a thing. it can be replaced, or we can live without it. there is only one you. there will only ever be one you. you will always be more important than just some thing.”
I lend out a collection to fossils to my school’s 8th grade science teachers annually. I’ve collected since I was a kid, added more as an adult from yard sales and donations. I want kids to be inspired and intrigued. About my 5th year at my school, the teacher came to me with one of her students. The girl looked upset and sort of scared. The teacher explained that the girl’s hand had slipped and a Megaladon Shark’s tooth had broken into two pieces. My first response was to make sure she hadn’t been cut by one of the pieces, and she shook her head, tears in her eyes. I smiled at her and pointed out that she hadn’t dropped it on purpose, that the ridiculously big tooth had been fossilized and survived this long, and it would still be amazing if I had to either keep it in two pieces or superglue it.
It bothered me a lot that the kid was clearly primed by a lot of adults to deal with anger and blame when a simple mistake was made. I offered her a hug, which she accepted and finally laughed.
My grandmother owns crystal bowls that have been passed down to her from her grandmother. Being a family with Jewish heritage in Austria, every single piece of family history we own is basically a treasure in itself.
I was already an adult when she allowed me to take one of them home with me, of course only after I swore several oaths to keep it safe. I can go months and years without breaking a single dish, but lo and behold, it takes two weeks and a split second of not paying attention, and suddenly that crystal bowl, that’s worth more to my grandmother than the entire rest of her furniture, goes flying and shatters into a million pieces. I swear I watched for what felt like an hour as that thing dropped, turned around itself and finally crashed in a spectacular impact. Anyway, it’s completely beyond repair, and I’m freaking out because my grandmother will murder me. Only, she will not, because even worse, she’s going to be fucking heartbroken and so, so disappointed with me she won’t even find it within herself to murder me.
But, you gotta do what you gotta do – not being able to face her while confessing, I call her, in tears, apologizing a hundred times before she finally goes: “Gigi, calm down now, what happened??”
“*sobbing* I- I broke your grandma’s bohooohooowl -”
And my grandmother, bless that woman, starts laughing hysterically. She’s laughing so much I think, I must have broken her, that’s it, she’s lost her marbles now and it’s my fault, until she wheezes out: “Gigi that bowl survived two world wars and the Nazis but not a month in your kitchen!” and of course I fucking lost it too at that point. That’s how I learned, that in the end, it’s really all about perspective.
Now I’m a step-mum myself and my go to reaction whenever I hear something break is to shrug and say ‘Well, it had a good run’ and then I go fetch a broom and we’ll clean up because if my grandma could laugh off a 100 year old crystal dish, I can laugh off an IKEA mug lmao