Nothing But a Thing
by Katie Clark
“It ain’t nothing but a thing.”—Anonymous
Okay, well, maybe it’s not “anonymous,” but I have no idea who said it. The important thing is that someone said it … and it has become my personal mantra since last Friday. What happened last Friday you ask? Well, in case you couldn’t hear me yelling all the way over at your house, my three-year-old son, in a moment of frustration, threw a very large piece of Tupperware at our fifty-two-inch flat-screen TV (yes, the one we bought this past Christmas) and destroyed it. Completely busted. As in, unfixable. It’s out on the curb.
I honestly think it’s the first time I’ve ever said, “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” to one of my children. However, I doubt it will be the last. Anyway, after several minutes of righteous indignation and some “thinking time” spent sitting on the naughty step, Danny began to cry and said he was sorry he broke the TV—actually, he said, “I sowwy I bwoke da TB.” And I really do think he meant it.
The funny thing, and I mean funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha, is that shortly after the incident of the flying object and the subsequent offering of his Elmer Fudd-inspired apology, my son, Danny, decided to take a nap. He curled up on the couch, pulled a blanket over himself, and passed out until the following morning. My husband came home about thirty minutes after Danny crashed. Now, Danny is no fool … even my husband didn’t have the heart to wake him up out of sound sleep to give him a piece of his mind. And what is sweeter looking than a toddler peacefully napping on the couch? You would think that Danny passed out on purpose, but I don’t think he did. He had had a long day, he was tired, and he fell asleep. He wasn’t trying to hide from his father or avoid a spanking. He was sleepy, and so, he slept.
Well, without a doubt, Danny slept better than either my husband or I did that night. We both tossed and turned, fretting over the loss of the beloved (and expensive) center of our family’s entertainment, making a mental list of all the other places we could have spent that money—college funds, home improvements, a really nice vacation—and still maybe have something to show for it. And I personally lamented the fact that I just couldn’t stop him in time. I relived my slow-motion, “Nnnnnoooo!!!” over and over again. All night long. And you’ll never believe this, but after my restless night spent ruminating endlessly about the mishap, when I got up the next morning, my TV was still broken. What an efficient use of my time!
Because here’s the thing—even I, a broken-hearted-former-flat-screen-TV-owner, have to admit … I envy my little boy. Truthfully, I think he has the right idea. He broke the TV. He apologized. He moved on. He’s a living example of what I say I want in my life … the ability to just let go. He doesn’t carry endless regret over what he did and he isn’t still beating himself up over it days later. He did wrong, he said he was sorry … and he then he had himself a great night’s sleep. He doesn’t think less of himself, doesn’t see what he did as an unforgivable act.
I wish I had the ability to forgive myself like that—not just about the TV, but about everything in my life. How different my day-to-day could be if letting go of a terrible mistake was as easy as a sincere apology followed by a really great snooze. So why isn’t my life like that? Because I make sure it isn’t. Harboring the self-defined appropriate amount of post-screw up guilt is often a big part of how I torture myself into thinking I’ve learned a lesson. “What an idiot I am. I’ll never do that again,” I tell myself. But isn’t a better lesson to just let it go without all that name-calling and self deprecation? The reality is that my busted TV is nothing more than a $2,500 glass of spilled milk. No amount of anger, regret, or reliving of that “Oh, crap!” moment will fix it. And there’s really no sense in crying over it.
So, I’ll try instead to suck up the loss of a major investment, think twice about replacing it any time soon (three-year-olds = flying objects), and rejoice in the fact that my son’s little soul is still unspoiled enough that he can just let it go. I’ll also try to incorporate that lesson into my daily life, because, in the end, it really “ain’t nothing but a thing.”