By Meika Rouda
Over the Holiday my husband and I spent ten days straight with our kids. When I say straight I mean it, every minute of every day- we didn’t go to work or on a date or even out alone to exercise- it was marathon family time. We didn’t mean for it to happen and while I feel silly gloating about it, I am also totally amazed and relieved that there were no huge outburst, fights, crazy times. Overall we got along great. We took a wonderful ski vacation and I loved watching our seven year old son surge ahead in his ski skills. He is officially faster and better than I am. We also were able to spend time with my parents and when I spent a full day skiing with my eighty year old dad and my four year old daughter, the three of us on a chairlift together side by side, I realized this amazing arc of time. Three generations on skis together. It was miraculous and I sucked the joy into my soul breathed it in deeply- hoping I would never forget the joy and awe of that day. I often have that feeling of wanting to wrap my arms around a feeling, something that isn’t tangible that I wish to keep, so I can stash it away and bring it back out whenever I want. I want it to stay. Because often I am overwhelmed by too much going on or frustrated that my kids aren’t listing to me or edgy because I forgot to buy milk, again. And when I get back to that pure place of appreciation it recharges me. It fills my cup. This metaphor is not new but was recently reintroduced to me as a way to talk to my kids about feelings. When you are feeling bad like frustrated or angry or overwhelmed, it is because your cup isn’t full. When your cup is full it is easy to brush off things and find solutions instead of reacting. Your buttons don’t get pushed as easily. You don’t take things personally.
Here is how it works. We all start off with full cups in the morning and as the day progresses your cup may slowly dry up, like if my son doesn’t get dressed when I ask him to, I may yell at him to get dressed, that depletes my cup and his. And on the other side one fills their cup by being kind to one another and doing things that make you feel good.There are many ways to fill your cup, one way is to do something nice for somebody else, this fills your cup and their cup. You can pay a compliment or help a friend or just give a hug. So when I start to get on the verge of losing it and I feel my spirit swaying to the negative, pissed off side, I try to take a breath and find a way to fill my cup. I admit I am not always successful but sometimes I am. But what is better is that my kids are becoming successful at it.
At some point everyday my cup is empty and I feel myself just trying to keep it together and now my kids can name how I am feeling and help me get rid of it. It isn’t personal to them- like mom is mad at me. Yes, I might be mad but I may be overreacting to something because my cup is empty and I have no reserves. Once they remind me my cup is empty I can help myself by filling it or they can help me fill it. It is almost like a game but it works because it gives me perspective and reminds us we do have a choice about how we feel. Do I really need to feel like the world is going to end because my son won’t eat dinner and refuses to go to bed until he has finished his lego set? Or that I am late to school almost everyday because my daughter has to change her outfit fifteen times? This is all annoying and perhaps I am not as “in charge” as I would like at my house but I can also take it in stride. And if I can teach my kids this tool, to fill their own cup and others, I think it will help them live happier lives, which is really in the end all we want. Just ask my eighty year old parents, who still hold hands when they walk down the street together and love hosting dinner parties for fifty people. When your cup is full, your life is fuller and that fullness spreads to the people around you. So tap into your well and start filling, you will be surprised by how easy and effective it is.