Well, at least I didn't do it again the Britney Spears way, but still, it was bad with a capital "B."
My big boys wanted to make Jello tonight. They followed all the steps and then, as Oldest Son was putting it in the fridge (in the pan, with the handle sticking out, without moving any existing objects from the spot he was placing it in, or minding the trajectory of the door), it went everywhere. All over the inside of the fridge, the island, the wood floor, Oldest Son's clothing, and then it got worse. As I'm shrilly and insensitively barking orders like a fishwife on exactly how the clean-up must commence, Middle Son comes along, realizes what has happened and starts bawling loudly. I mean like a baby. I said nothing to him, preferring to pretend his heart wasn't broken because the fruits of his labor were now all over the floor. I just kept haranguing Oldest Son about all the spots he was missing and then I really hit the roof when baby started wading through it gaily and tracking the now glue-like substance across the room. Oldest Son was very ashamed and disappointed and truly upset at his mistake. So why did I heap it on further?
Five hours probably passed before I came to my senses. OS and MS had been asleep for nearly 3 hours when I thought back on what had happened (while doing dishes) and realized what a monster I was. I could have taken that situation and turned it into a happy experience for them. I could have made them clean up the mess, sure -- but quietly. And then I could have simply found them another box of Jello and permitted them to try it over again. What did they learn from that whole exercise, as I left it?
I've always thought we get a good part of our vision of how God is from how our parents are. And tonight, I taught my boys that God is merciless and unforgiving. I robbed them of the chance to try again, to learn from their mistake, and to receive redemption in the form of a wiggly snack.
In shame and tears, I woke my boys up and apologized to them for my behavior and told them how sorry I was that their Jello spilled and that I knew how sad and disappointed that had made them. I asked their forgiveness and received it in surprised, sleepy little voices. I kissed them and told them I loved them. I have now made a stack of all the Jello boxes I could find and will let them make the stuff tomorrow to their hearts' content. They will undoubtedly be very careful and will ask for help when it is needed.
I hope that next time I have a chance like the one I blew tonight, I will teach them that God loves them unconditionally, is patient and kind, and that grace is a gift extended to us even if we accidentally leave litle patches of sticky yuck on the floor when cleaning up the messes we make in our lives.