I was going to make my first post about “making the grown up decisions” but I think it’ll be a long running thing throughout each post really, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this one.
My son started school last week, and (luckily) for him it wasn’t an emotional time at all. I cried. He didn’t see me cry, but I did. I had my sunglasses on with the hopes of hiding it, but after he walked into his classroom in a line of tiny school-hatted pairs holding hands, my shoulders or breathing must have given me away. I was held by another mother in that way that you can only be hugged when someone knows exactly how you’re feeling and what you need. It was very kind of her.
After a week and a half of school, I’m seeing the effect his amazing teacher (we’ll call her Miss Jenkins) is having on him already. His vocabulary is improving. He’s getting better at describing his day. At daycare I would ask him what he did that day, and he’d reply “played a lot”. At kinder I was hoping because it had more structure that he’d have more to tell me about what he did that day, but no. He “played a lot” there too. He’s telling me what classes he had now and who he played with, and what parts of his lunch were “uh-may-zing”.
But my favourite part is hearing the little sayings he’s repeating from his teacher. “Don’t just say no, give it a go!” is one of them. It’s one I think he is benefitting from already as he is a pretty hesitant kid unless he knows exactly what is expected of him and how to achieve it. He’s not a “learn by doing” kid, he likes rules and structure. If I put a bunch of art supplies in front of him, he asks me what he’s supposed to make. If I say “anything”, he just stares at it until I give him ideas. Whether this is an ingrained part of his personality or just an age thing time will tell. His kinder report adorably described this as “a restrained enthusiasm”.
One of these sayings struck a chord immediately. I feel like a whole new method of communicating with my son has opened up, and a new way of treating communication with my family and friends in general. Hell, even self-care.
Him: “It fills my bucket when you say that”
Me: “Sorry? What’s your bucket?”
Him: “When you say nice things to people it fills their bucket up, and Miss Jenkins says we should try and make sure people never have an empty bucket because it means they’re really sad”
In a week and a half she’s given my son the ability to communicate when he’s sad (his bucket is empty) and needs some attention in a really clear and observable way. It’s also helped when teaching him empathy (“we should feel sad for people with empty buckets and try and help them fill them”), and kindness (“do you want to be a bucket-filler or a bucket-emptier?”) and when I’m exasperated and need some time alone I can communicate to him very easily the status of my bucket. I love it, and I love her.
The bucket is the perfect metaphor for self-care. Self-care is filling your own bucket periodically so you don’t end up empty. This year I’m focusing on filling my bucket with emotional energy, so I can do all the things I want/need to do without it being ultimately bad for me.
I’m going to fill my own bucket once a day. Sure, having others fill it is nice, but I don’t think it would be wise to rely on others to fill it. I’m also going to fill my loved ones buckets at least once a day, too. Taking it out of the abstract and into this specific metaphor could perhaps be considered oversimplification, but some of the best coping mechanisms and CBT strategies are the ones that look deceptively easy. They seem so simple. Which is why it’s easy to pull them out when you need them immediately.
I feel calm about school, calm about his emotional maturity, and a bit calmer about my own, and I’ve thanked Miss Jenkins for giving us our buckets. It’s been an unexpectedly tremendous present.
Try being a bucket-filler today, but start with your own.