When my 10th grade English teacher first introduced this idiom to me, I wondered, "Why milk?" In my high school life, milk was the least accessible type of drink. I did not have many chances to visualize or see "spilled milk" except some extreme scenes when I was younger. Who would ever cry over it?
Back in my elementary school, two little students in white smocks carried a sturdy yellow container full of 200cc bottles of milk for lunch. Their job was to deliver over 30 bottles from the school kitchen to their classroom. It was very heavy, especially if their classroom was in the fourth floor without an elevator. Personally, I hated this job because of the heavy weight. But also because I was aware of the scene of my fellow students slipping, losing their balance, and scattering pieces of glasses and milk all over the hallway floor, all within milliseconds. It happened about a few minutes before I passed through the area. It was very messy, but I didn't see anyone crying. I saw a teacher, a custodian, and students with/without white smocks. Some were sweeping, some were picking up large glass pieces carefully with a dust pan. Instead of using a fancy mop, another set of students brought dry rags to wipe the mess. There was no time for anyone to cry over spilled milk, because if someone decide to cry, they would lose their recess! So the job was done quickly, just like a ninja.
My first breakfast with my host family in the U.S was a cold bowl of cereal. At that moment, my light bulb lit up. I excitedly mumbled with my unnatural tongue, "Don't cry over spilled milk." My host family looked at me and said, "You haven't spilled your milk. What are you talking about?" I was embarrassed. I wished I could explain my excitement to my host family. I wished that I had spilled milk. In my early years in the U.S., I was always frustrated about my inability to communicate in conversations. But instead of crying over my lack of ability, I continued to learn how to communicate. It took me a few more years to understand that spilled milk is a literal expression with a wholesome meaning.
Over a period of some decades, I spilled a lot of milk everywhere in the world, which is one thing I am proud of. I didn't cry over it. Not only did I not want to lose recess, but no one took care of my mess. I didn't want to keep my mess. In a way, we adults must guide youngsters to have high expectations, explorations, resilience, and responsibility. Let them pour milk. Let them spill. Let them cry. Let them think about the solution. Then everything is going to be ok. I would love to chat with Ms. Queen, my 10th grade English teacher, now. She must be proud of me