Broken Glass

We broke another plate this morning.

And, by we, I mean they.

They broke another plate this morning, the happy hooligans who live in my house.

Four weeks ago, they broke the glass of the big family photo that hangs in our stair well. Knocked that frame off the wall during an epic light saber battle… or while carrying the Giant Stick Collection upstairs… or because someone pushed someone else for going too slow. It’s hard to say for sure. My witnesses are historically unreliable.

Three weeks ago, it was the wine glass I left on the counter.

Two weeks ago, they broke the glass of the picture in the bathroom. You know the one; the Monet print I bought at the Louvre in my early 20’s. My first attempt at classy home decorating.

Sadly, Monet and I grew apart years ago, but, hello, I met him in Paris so I couldn’t just toss him away. I relegated him to the bathroom, instead, where he hung on the wall behind the door and I never, ever saw him since I haven’t pottied with the door closed since 1998.

I knew he was there, though, like the me-I-once was-in-my-20’s. Waiting.

I heard the thundering footsteps of the oldest boy child. BOOM BOOM BOOM. And the skittering sound of the dog’s claws on the wood floor, chasing the boy.

I heard them round the corner.

I heard the THUD as the boy child hit the bathroom door. And the SLAM of the door being pushed too far backward into the wall behind it.

I heard the frame sliding off its hook and scratching the wall — down, down, down — to crash in a terrific, glittery spray.

It makes sense that it broke, really, this symbol of my four carefree Parisian days. Because you can’t go back. You just can’t. And me in my early 20’s? I don’t even want to go back, except now and then for a nap or to keep reading when a book gets to the good part.

Today, they broke another plate.

It was from our wedding set. We were so practical when we bought it. Blue pinstripe, it’s called.

We can mix and match it with other dishes, we said when we chose it.

We can use it for fine dining or casual, we said.

It’ll go with everything, we said.

And we were right.

But we didn’t know then that you don’t want china that goes with everything. Because everything includes the kitchen floor.

I’m beginning to suspect nothing will survive my kids’ childhood. Not the dishes. Not the artwork. Not even me. At least, not me in any form I used to recognize myself.

And that, friends, is strangely OK, because I’m learning that mamas do, in fact, go with everything. Even broken on the hard kitchen floor.

So here’s to broken glass, friends. And a smashing success of a week.




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39 responses to “Broken Glass”

  1. Coming into this conversation late, I know . . .but better than never! With five boys+ a sister for each of them (don’t freak out, that’s only 6). I have come to realize that broken is the new useful. Each broken glass is a teaching moment, each book screaming out for rebinding reaches us.

  2. I have 4 kids aged 3, 5, 7, 9 and nothing is surviving their childhood. In fact my daughter just broke her piggy bank today that she received just yesterday for a gift. My husband gets really frustrated bellowing how “These kids just won’t take care of anything!” Blah blah blah. I get a bit frustrated as well when my brand new “whatever” is ruined after just a week, that is until I read this blog entry. I read it to my husband as well and both he and I agree it was the perfect timing for us. Thank you for such a wonderful perspective. All of the things that are ruined, broken, obliterated are just that, things. My children are what brings me joy and happiness each and everyday. Not piggy banks. Thank you again.

  3. The first thing I saw too was the cross in the broken pieces. It’s like what was hiding behind/inside the breaking.

    Also, I have 2 Van Gogh paintings in my bathroom, but I like them. Only because my college roommate did that and I thought it was nice… classy perhaps. Thankfully my door opens the other way, but we do have epic light saber battles here too…

  4. Just started reading your bolg – via Crappy pictures blog :). We will have 5 kids in Dec.
    I don’t think anything will survive in our house until all the kids are out of the house. We’ve converted to basically plastic plates/dishes/bowls, anything plastic because it just doesn’t break when you drop it on the floor, unless the dog gets it and plays with it like her frisbee :(. We have one nice glass small cup left after 5 years – I guard it with my life – its MY cup and if anyone else touches it they are in trouble, including my husband who leaves the glass stuff out for the kids to drop eventually LOL. And those ‘non-breakable’ plates at Walmart? Yeah right – go ahead and drop those on tile.
    We’ve just decided to upgrade when the kids move out, in like 20 years, including the furniture and appliances. 🙂

    • Congrats on #5! And welcome here, Rachael. Very glad to have you.

      I figure we’re screwed no matter what. By the time my twins leave for college (if they leave for college), I’ll have kids aged 23, 25 and 26. So I could be a grandparent by then which means no window for nice things. I HIGHLY recommend not doing that kind of math so you can harbor hope. 😉

  5. And this is why we do not own glass cups. And we don’t use the glass plates we own! Lol. 3 yr old who likes to help empty/load dishwasher, mixed with mommy being a klutz. 🙂

  6. Reminds me of a Roseanne show where someone breaks the stolen neon beer sign over the mantelpiece, and they bemoan, “We just can’t have nice things!”

  7. When my 9 yr old was a toddler, I occasionally yelled at the dog to “sit.” And then one day he yelled at the dog to “sit.” And I figured out less offensive things to yell in frustration, especially since we don’t have a dog.
    Love this post.

    • One time, I was hanging a picture on the wall and it fell on my head. I explained to my then-2-year-old that it’s VERY important with a potential head injury to sit, rest and assess the injury, and so it was essential, really, to yell at myself to SIT as a reminder to do so.

      P.S. Great dog story. In this case, I recommend getting a dog as the easier of the 2 most obvious solutions.

  8. Sometimes (okay, almost every day), I too wonder if I will survive my kids’ childhood. I’m pretty sure I won’t.
    I have a confession: all of our drinking glasses are recycled Nutella jars (the kind that has a snap-on lid, so there are no screw-on threads to get in the way of drinking). This way, whenever we (*ahem* “they”) break yet another glass, all we have to do is polish off another jar of Nutella to get a replacement. I think it’s a pretty fair trade-off, don’t you?

      • I know, right?? I didn’t mention that they make incredible drinking glasses for a household with small kids and a decision not to use plastic. (I know–we’re insane.)

        First of all, they don’t tip over easily. Incredibly stable.

        Secondly, the glasses are surprisingly sturdy. They’ll break if dropped on tile, but my kids have hurled them down on linoleum and laminate flooring many times without a resulting crack or chip!

        Thirdly, they’re actually pretty, with a subtle textured design on the inside that makes them look almost fancy.

        Fourthly, they come with LIDS! So when a kid doesn’t finish his juice or milk, all you have to do is slap on a lid and toss it in the fridge!

  9. That is why my mom got all white Corelle. A piece could break and it was replaced for free and the white is always available.

    We did go through a heck of a lot of drinking glasses! I am old enough that plastic cups weren’t all that available.

    And those cheap square glass ceiling light covers, we (well, me) managed to break quite a few of those!

    • I’ve been coveting my parents’ extensive collection of Corelle for years now, even though it’s white with mustard yellow trim. On the bright side, it definitely doesn’t go with my kitchen floor, so it’s both indestructible and unlikely to ever want to go there.

      • I have a mixed bag of Corelle in my apartment. A few white pieces, some blue with flowers and some with a brown edge pattern. Obviously I an seriously stylish and worried about my place settings . . .
        My name will never be Martha.
        If you ‘inherited’ your parents and their pattern is out of date, you can break it on purpose and replace it with white!

  10. Oh, yes, I feel your pain.

    We’ve broken quite a few pieces of glass over the years (although, the only picture-frame glass that was broken was done so by an adult).

    My parents got us a new set of drinking glasses for everyday use for Christmas last year, which made us so happy. The were sparkly! They were pretty! They were lovely! They were excessively fragile… I think we’ve lost at least 5 in the past 9 months.

    Now we are debating extending the set vs just letting them all die and trying a _different_ brand next time…

    I don’t think anything else will survive my kids’ childhood, either! I’m okay about coming out a different person, though, as I needed to grow.

    Chin up, mama! It’s only broken glass. 🙂

    • Ha! Love this story – see my note to Julie above. I get it. I do.

      “I’m okay about coming out a different person, though.” Yes. This. My friend, Nancy, says it turns out she didn’t have kids because she’d be a great mama; she had kids because they had so much to teach her. True. True. True.

  11. This is brilliant writing. Thank you SO much for taking the time. We have a wonderful print in our bathroom…I bought it from the traveling poster vendor on campus at UW in about 1992. It, too, was going to “class me up” a bit. It, too, waits patiently in the bathroom. Ha! Amazing insight and literary acuity! Thank you! Cheers to the grace in which you embrace your parenting (at least the “final draft” version that makes it to the blog!) 🙂
    Your efforts are appreciated and they make a difference. I always find a little more patience with my little ones after I read your humane, delightful vignettes! 🙂

    • Thank you, Chris, for your kind words and also your poster confession. 🙂

      “Humane”… I love that description, and I hope my children would agree with you. I’ve trained them upon breakage to say, “oops” and then shrug their shoulders and ask for help with clean-up. We all make mistakes, and there’s just no point in freaking out or carrying on about them. I often think that if I could only manage to treat my own breakage with similar humanity and grace, I’d be much better off. Fortunately for me, I make enough mistakes to give myself unending practice at finding a path to kindness and gentleness.

  12. 3 boys = lots of broken stuff

    And at times also my heart, spirit, my patience, etc. And I will also never be the same, thank God.

    Nicely done.

  13. Ha! I was immediately reminded of how Greg so helpfully emptied the dishwasher when he was growing up. We tried not to get too upset about the CRASH! “Oh, Shoot!” we frequently heard. My next thought was one that recurs every so often when I run across some ragged relic of a wedding gift: Someone should start a new tradition of long-marriage celebration showers. After 20 years or so, most of the wedding gifts have worn out or out-lived their usefulness and it’s time to get a fresh round!

      • I’ve heard that’s actually the thinking behind the anniversary themes – that as each year comes around the material associated with the anniversary will be the wedding gifts that have worn out and need replacing, e.g. 1st anniversary = paper, 15th = crystal, 20th = china etc. We just need to get our family and friends to play the game and buy us the appropriate anniversary gifts!

        • This explains so much. We hit our 20-year anniversary in 2 more years (assuming, of course, we don’t smother each other with pillows) and by then, sure enough, there won’t be a stick of china left at our house. I’ll let my friends know to start saving their pennies.

    • Greg still helpfully empties the dishwasher. We still hear “Oh, shoot”s.

      Unless I break something. Then we hear something else, after which I try to convince all the kids that I was just telling the dog to “SIT!” The littles still believe me. The bigs just roll their eyes.

  14. Ah, yes Beth. To broken glass and shattered selves. We survived wine glasses for the kids at Thanksgiving dinner last night without a chip. The glasses I purposely used because I don’t like them so much. The ones that have been around for years, because absolutely no one seems to drop them, bang them, clink them too hard, stick them in the dishwasher so they can be cut off when the drawer slides back in, balance them on the plate as they take their dishes to the counter, drop a heavy pot into the dishwater with one sitting on the bottom, or even just look at the wrong way and have it break. Those ones. You know how it goes! 🙂

    • “To broken glass and shattered selves.”

      Yes. Exactly.

      Also, I have a set of glasses I’ve hated for 18 years. I use them daily. There were six. We’re down to one. And, like the goldfish I had in college, IT JUST WON’T DIE. It’s sitting next to me at my desk right this minute. I know I should just donate it to Goodwill, but it’s becoming a contest of wills, and I WILL TRIUMPH (someday).

      In short, I feel your glass pain.

  15. The first thing I was struck by was the perfect cross the plate broke into, making me think ‘I need to give my kids more grace.’ Second thought’ I am so glad for the mercy and grace Christ give me because that is the only way I will survive their childhood.’

  16. Am so sorry to learn of your smashing day! It is exactly the same here. When I think of all the candles and lamps and general pretty things that we used to keep in the living room pre-children… they have ALL been relegated to another room behind a closed door for fear that they will be destroyed (as so many other things have already been wrecked. I let out a scream recently when Joshua liberated my violin from its case, but thankfully confiscated it before he ripped the strings off and snapped the bow). My current interior design is of the school known as Utilitarian and Minimalist. The baby has pulled SO many plates and saucers and teacups and bowls out of the cupboard recently and broken them, but you can only keep so many things five feet off the ground, because you run out of space. But as you say, Mamas go with everything, so we’ll focus upon that beautiful and happy fact 😀 x

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