The Squeaky Sink

By Diane Stark

“Mommy, is it almost time to watch ‘The Squeaky Sink?’” My three-year-old son, Jordan, asked.

I nodded. “Yes, Honey, but it’s called The Weakest Link, remember?”

He ignored me completely; just like he had the other 16 times I’d corrected him. “I just love the way the mean lady says it when people get stuff wrong,” he said. He scrunched up his nose and said, “You are… the squeaky sink! Good bye!”

For the uninitiated, my son was referring to a game show called The Weakest Link, which was on TV for a season or two in the early 2000s. The host was a British woman, and although I’m sure she is a nice person in real life, she was less-than-kind to the contestants on her show.

When one of them would answer a question incorrectly, she would announce haughtily, “You are… the weakest link! Good bye!” And the person was kicked off the show.

For some strange reason, Jordan loved to imitate her. “You are… the squeaky sink! Good bye!” He’d say it dozens of times each day.

And although he didn’t understand the meaning of the term “weakest link,” he’d definitely figured out that it wasn’t a good thing. One day, while carrying groceries in from the car, a bag slipped out of my hand, and a dozen eggs broke all over my kitchen floor.

I was tired and cranky and very, very pregnant. And then I heard Jordan announce, “You are… the squeaky sink! Good bye!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I probably did both. But from then on, the words “squeaky sink” became synonymous with failure.

If I went to the grocery store and bought everything except the one item I actually went there to buy, that was a squeaky sink moment. And when I forgot to return the library books? Definitely the squeaky sink. And the worst? Undone tasks on my To Do List. Squeakiest sink ever!

Dusty shelves became so much more than dusty shelves. They became a way to remind myself that I wasn’t doing enough, that no matter how hard I worked, I would never get everything done. I was failing in tons of little ways every single day.

I could almost hear that mean British lady taunting me. “You are… the weakest link!”

One day, my friend Krista came over, and Jordan called her the squeaky sink.

I laughed and explained, “He’s imitating the lady on The Weakest Link.” I told her about the dropped eggs and Jordan’s announcement. “Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, my son reminds me that I’m the squeaky sink.”

Krista laughed. “I love the way he says it too! Like he’s really shaming you.”

I laughed, but her words hit too close to home. Jordan’s shame wasn’t the problem.

Later, Krista followed me into my bedroom to retrieve something. I’d forgotten about the baskets of clean, but unfolded laundry on the floor. I immediately began to apologize for the mess. “I guess I’m the squeaky sink again, aren’t I?” I joked.

But her eyebrows shot up. “Are you really apologizing for the baskets of clothes?”

I shrugged. “I meant to fold them, but I ran out of time.”

“Why not focus on the fact that you got them washed?”

“But I didn’t finish.”

“You have a full-time job, a young son, and you’re ready to pop with Baby #2. I think the fact that you got the clothes washed at all is a major accomplishment.”

“But I didn’t…”

“Is this your To Do List?” Krista asked, pointing at the notepad on my nightstand. When I nodded, she sighed and said, “No wonder you feel like a failure. This thing is insane.”

I didn’t tell her that was just the first page.

“You need to cut yourself some slack,” she said. “Throw away this To Do List. It’s not helping you. From now on, your To Do List contains only three items a day. Got it?”

I nodded meekly.

“And no more squeaky sink nonsense. It’s only cute when Jordan says it.”

After Krista left, I thought about her words. A To Do List with only three tasks? How would I possibly get to everything?

Who was I kidding? I wasn’t getting to everything now.

I wasn’t getting things done, and I felt like a failure. Just looking at my multi-page To Do List made me feel so utterly defeated that I could hardly even start on anything.

I decided to give Krista’s suggestion a try.

The next day, I wrote only three things on my To Do List. And at the end of the day, I’d gotten two of them done.

It wasn’t total success, but it was far better than I’d been doing. And I felt a lot better too.

I tried it again the next day. My three tasks were to wash two loads of laundry, including folding them, to write an essay for an upcoming deadline and to send a card to my Grandmother who lives far away. Sending that card had been on my multi-page To Do List for two weeks, but I hadn’t gotten around to it because there were so many other things to do.

But that day, I mailed the card.

And it felt awesome.

I realized that my own unrealistic expectations were causing me to feel like a failure. I was so overwhelmed that it paralyzed me and kept me from accomplishing anything at all.

But with my new To Do List, I felt as though I was actually making some headway. I stopped that nasty internal dialogue and just did my best each day.

How we talk to ourselves can make all the difference in our success or failure.

I’m not a weak link – or a squeaky sink. I’m a mom.

And I’ve learned that I’m a better mom when I celebrate success, rather than focus on failure.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to “The Squeaky Sink”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Diane, your delightful story resonates with me. Having taught preschool for so long, I know kids say the darndest things.

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