I’m not sure what first brought this word to my attention. But it expresses so beautifully, so succinctly what I’d like to be as a mother. The very sounds of its four syllables have the power to calm me down, pick me up, and chill me out. And I find there are many moments when this is necessary.
For example, today my toddler dumped her milk upside down on the table, spilled a bowl of pretzels twice in succession on a clean floor, piddled in her trousers over the living room rug, and finger-painted. Today I sloshed twelve ounces of boiling, greasy chicken stock on the wall and the counter, the stock then running down spilling into each of the drawers and puddling on the kitchen floor (which I had finally got around to mopping . . . yesterday). Twenty minutes later, I dropped a bowl of baby formula which bounced when it landed and did a somersault in the air, spraying formula like a fire hose around the kitchen. I’ve had a migraine since about four o’clock. My baby was suddenly issuing piercing screams at the top of shrill little-girl lungs every forty seconds for several hours, from mid-afternoon until she went to bed a half an hour ago. I don’t know if it’s because she thinks it’s funny or because she’s hungry or because she has a cold. There were many, many opportunities to think of this special word and this was a pretty ordinary Tuesday.
Unflappable. It reminds me that stress, frustration, and rage make poor masters. A child may be in the bathtub with the water flowing over, dinner for company may be burning in the oven, the phone may be ringing, the baby screaming, and the grocery delivery knocking, but when I hear it I see myself standing staunchly in an oasis of calm. Don’t flap over the stuff that doesn’t matter. Don’t flap open the door for fatigue and temper to escape. Don’t flap, it will blow over, it always does. Like Rachel Jankovic wisely (and humorously) wrote in Loving the Little Years, when things are at their worst, wait twenty minutes.
It reminds me that I don’t need to fret, fuss, or freak because although things are often outside of my control they are never outside of God’s. He is never rattled or flustered (praise him for that, could you imagine if he were). It reminds me that, with him helping me, my children will not grow up remembering me as a hair-triggered nutcase, just waiting for some glue on the couch to blow her stack. It reminds me that in him I can actually calm most domestic storms and weather the rest of them.
So here we go, girls. No flapping.