Welcome to the pub down the alley! Sitting there next to my laptop is a lovely “sour wheat ale brewed with sea salt and coriander”. No joke. My brewer Husband thinks I’m ridiculous. I’m sure most beer-drinking humans think sea salt in beer is ridiculous. And 4 – 14% of the population is genetically predisposed to think that cilantro (Spanish for coriander leaves) tastes like soap. And yes, I remember the Budweiser commercial two Super Bowls ago mocking exactly this. But I don’t care. It fills my freakin bucket. And, as cheesy kitchen-wall-plate plaques all over middle America point out, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” In other words, moms, it’s imperative you find and do the little things that fill your bucket.
“Fills my bucket” is one of those mom things I’ve caught myself saying since having kids—along with “go potty”, and ending everything in an “ie” (doggie, huggie, uppie, snackie, etc)—even when talking to grown-ups. (Dang it, there’s another. I mean “adults”.) It’s not just that, though. It’s really a thing. An important thing. They didn’t teach it in school when I was a kid, but judging from all the empathy-deficient grown-ass people running around, maybe they should have. The DO teach it in preschool and pre-k classrooms now, though, and it’s genius.
As far as I can tell, it comes from Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin’s children’s book Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children. It is a book, a song, and an entire curriculum for littles. I learned about it last year when J’s preschool class taped a large construction-paper cutout bucket on the wall with a line of masking tape a few feet over it, next to an envelope full of construction-paper cutout red and purple hearts. Every time one of the kids did something kind for another, their name and what they did would go on a heart, and the heart would be taped on the wall over the bucket. When the hearts reached the masking-tape line, the whole class would get a popcorn pajama party day. I thought “that’s cute”. But then J started having problems roughhousing too aggressively with kids, and his teacher gave me a copy of the book because of its ideas on more positive ways to relate to fellow humans.
The book starts out with a newborn baby, explaining that when you were born you were given the special gifts of a name and an invisible bucket (What? Where’s my bucket? Why don’t I have a bucket?). “Your bucket holds all the love and happiness that you receive each day. When your bucket is full, you feel happy. When your bucket is empty, you feel sad. It is good to have a full bucket.” (Ya’ think?) It gives examples of how family and others loving on you fills up your bucket, and how your happiness at the love fills theirs in return. Then it talks about ways you can fill other peoples buckets by being kind and loving, etc. It ends asking “Now it’s your turn. What will you do to fill a bucket?” (Love it!). The kids and I—and even Husband—have totally adopted this concept, and we use it at home with each other all the time now. “Aww, that filled your brother’s bucket when you gave him half your cookie!” “Sorry I’m a little grouchy right now, guys. I think it’s because my bucket’s empty.” “You look like your bucket’s empty. Do you need a hug?” “You asshole! That totally emptied my bucket! You suck!” Etc. (Ok, totally not proud of that last one…)
What I would add to the concept, though, is that while yes of course relational bucket-filling is important, and I’m sure it’s what the authors’ whole point is, it’s also SO important to be able to fill your own bucket. Sometimes no one is going to fill your bucket. Sometimes you’re surrounded by so many emotional vultures sucking every drop FROM your bucket. I try to teach E and J that it’s as important to love yourself as it is to love Mom and Dad and each other. They like to say a list of “I love you ___”s to the whole house (even the doggies…er, dogs) and I always ask “and who else?” (the correct answer being “myself!”). Because one day they might be entirely on their own. And I want them to still know how to have a full bucket. I want them to know how to put their own metaphorical oxygen masks on so they can help those around them who need it. I want them to always feel loved and ok.
So yes, I’m sitting here blogging and listening to live acoustic guitar and drinking a second pint of deliciousness, and not at home with my Husband and Kids (despite the rant I went on the other day to Husband about the importance of daily family dinner time). But my blood pressure and bad attitude are both noticeably lower, and my bucket is full. And when I get home I’ll be the mama I want to be for E and J, not the stressed-out basket case I was an hour earlier. I’m going home to fill them up from my full bucket.
Cheers, and go fill your bucket!