Now that you're a parent, are there any childhood experiences that have profoundly affected (hopefully in a positive way) how you deal with your children?

For instance, when I was about 7, my brothers and I had built a little fort off our patio with scrap wood from Dad's workshop. The boys then went out to "hunt" or "work" and I stayed inside to "fix supper." (Ok, it was the 60s! 7 year old girls weren't liberated yet. ) Then I thought about Mom's beautiful chrystal pitcher that had her monogram etched in it. I thought it was the most beautiful work of art in the world. I decided I HAD to have it for my little supper.

Even though I'd been repeatedly told that the pitcher was not a toy, that I could never play with it by myself (and certainly not outside), I climbed up on the counter and pulled off the top shelf of the cabinet and scurried out to the fort. Well ... I dropped it on the patio, and it shattered.

My little heart broke! Not only because I knew I was in trouble, but mostly because I'd just broken the most beautiful thing in the world. I ran inside bawling. Mom ran to me, and when I told her what I'd done, she sat down and pulled me on her lap. As I wept, I remember her repeatedly saying, "It's just a thing, Martha. You're my little girl, and I'm so glad you're not hurt. But that pitcher, it's just a thing ..."

(Story still makes me cry .. )

Since becoming a parent, my children have destroyed more "stuff" and "things"--but it was like that experience with Mom forged something in my heart. Without even thinking about it, I've always been able to say to my children or their friends when something gets broken, "It's just a thing. I'm glad YOU'RE not hurt. It's just a thing ..."