Based on a recent poll on social media, this particular topic on bucket filling in our family was the winning idea for a full blog post. Thank you to all who added value to this experiment, whether by casting your vote or sending words of encouragement – my bucket is full.
Original Facebook post, February 2018:
After brother scared the pants off me by hiding outside the bathroom this morning and roaring at me when I came out, I fell over and we laughed our guts out.
Me: Brother, is your little love bucket full?
J (hee-hawing): Yeah, and my laugh bucket too!
Full buckets mean more to me than any morning race against the clock. I’m thankful these little people remind me of that when I start to move into drill sergeant mode. “Bucket filling is fun and easy to do. It doesn’t cost any money, and it doesn’t take much time.” (see below: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?)
We have 2 very different types of morning people in our house – pop tarts and slow rollers. The pop tarts are early risers, cheerful and active. The slow rollers are late sleepers, with whom it’s best to speak only when spoken to before 9 am.
There are so many tasks to accomplish within the hour or so we have together in our home before everyone races into their own day ahead. Lunch packing, water bottle filling, oops did anyone eat breakfast, tooth brushing, shoe finding and tying, hair brushing, stuff remembering. The pop tarts among us are quickly prepared and the slow rollers stop to smell e.v.e.r.y. r.o.s.e.
Often brother is ready a full millennium before his sister. Thus he spends his extra time pole vaulting across our bathroom floor with a stray shower curtain rod that no one has bothered to recycle, or asking to play a game or my computer. (we go technology free in the mornings, it’s a sanity saver.) He could go for months on one good joke or silly prank and at six years old he’s absolutely figured out that it’s a delight to find morning humor at the expense of his less-alert family members.
G on the other hand needs constant prodding. With my hands placed on her shoulders. Literally pointing her in the right direction of each next step of the morning process. She leaves a trail wherever she goes and a sense of urgent routine means nothing to her free spirit. Whatever colorful thought enters her mind veers her off course. We often find ourselves completely ready while she retrieves that thing “she has to have” before she could possibly take one more bite of a waffle. And where is your other shoe? Oh, of course it’s in the backyard with a stick planted in it.
In the midst of all this, as a parent I feel protective of this morning bubble. I’m acutely aware every morning that I’m preparing to send my little sheep out among wolves. Even our children face a world of broken people – hurting people. People who challenge their identities and beliefs even at their young age. People who might not necessarily be mindful of their tender hearts, people who throw out hurtful words without care, people who unknowingly squash bright ideas and innocent excitement. We have just this brief window of time together every morning. So we as their parents make every effort to keep their buckets full to the brim. They will need it to face the day so they can pour good into others’ buckets – and to keep their own full when others inadvertently dip out of them.
When they are older they will learn how to fill their own buckets in healthy ways. (Prayer, great sleep, good books and learning, exercise, laughter, yummy food, fulfilling conversations, meaningful work, service to others, and quality relationships are just a few ways to do it.) But for now we parents happily embrace that responsibility.
I absolutely get caught in the sweep of the morning rush. It’s easy not to notice the drop in G’s face when I pull the stick out of her backyard shoe – it was a fairy flag. It is simple to look away from the disappointment in brother’s eyes when I snatch the pole out of his next gold-medal vaulting stance because he’s blocking the sink. It’s natural to shrug off a hug from Jack while I’m just trying to load up toothbrushes so we can go. Because for goodness’ sake doesn’t anyone realize school starts in 12 minutes?
It is a constant battle for me to honor my intentions while also honoring the humans in my space. What simple mindfulness can I bring to the moment that adds value to their spirits? Is it a thoughtful compliment, a task taken off their plate? Could it be a special moment together or a silly surprise? Can I create a touch of connection like a hug or squeeze of the shoulder? (see below: The 5 Love Languages) Study your people and know what makes them tick. What does bucket filling look like for my spouse and each of my children? When we tune in we learn almost instantly what makes them soar and what deflates them. And it’s usually in a way that requires a thoughtful apology on our part.
We tend to show love in the way most meaningful to us. We’re not as adept at showing love in the ways most meaningful to other people.
To slow down and give brother the time and touch he needs requires a complete hack on my own default system of structure and task-mastering.
To pause to verbally recognize G’s beautiful offering to the fairies instead of flipping out over the shoe covered in mud requires a deep breath and lowering my raised eyebrows.
When I am on a mission, stopping for a hug from Jack requires a reminder that I am not the most important person in the room, ever.
Because ultimately, my task list is far less important than the way I’ve made my people feel. So they are worth a little Mother-board rewiring from me. My wiring could stand an overhaul anyway.
I can honor the pole vault with a congratulatory “TEN!” like an Olympic judge. I can carefully transplant the fairy flag into a stray pot or fancy cup from inside the house. If I’m really present, I can add glitter to it too. I can take 3 seconds to engage with Jack as the love of my life. “Bucket filling is fun and easy to do. It doesn’t cost any money, and it doesn’t take much time.”
And as we wave goodbye for the day, no matter what faces us ahead, we’re all out the door with full buckets and the safety of knowing we’re loved supremely well.
Great stuff to read (full reading list coming soon on this blog!):
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud (A sweet book for children to understand how to be an exceptional friend and citizen. Adorable illustrations by David Messing.)
The 5 Love Languages By Gary Chapman (learn the 5 languages, identify your own love language, and the love languages of others)
The 5 Love Languages for Children By Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell (applying the 5 Love Languages principles in meaningful ways with little people)
Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson (easy, short read)
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.