I am deciding today to just dive into this post with where we are at as a family right now. I thought about delaying the post and writing when I had more stories, evidence, conclusions…more time….(are you laughing at me? Because I am laughing at myself!).
Let’s just plunge into this post, shall we?
Where are we right now: We moved half way across the country just days shy of 9 months ago. We have been living with wonderful friends (family, actually, because the bond we have all formed is thicker than blood) who have done nothing short of laying down their lives for us. We barely knew these spectacular people when we moved in with them (a story for another time…that I think might become a book some day). We are still working with the Lord to find a house get into the house under which we have a contract…(more long stories that involve us learning far more than we ever wanted to about the inner workings of city permits, gas and DOT companies and much, much more…). We never could have imagined the challenges that this move would bring, and the process is definitely not over. Our daughter, Sweet Girl, just turned 5 (someone please pick my jaw up from the floor and explain to me how babies turn 5 the say after they are born???) and is in her first year of school. Our son, Little Man, is 2 and lives outdoors in the chicken coop whenever possible.
Before moving we were very far from family and had very few, but very close friends. We didn’t have Sweet Girl in school because we suspected a move might be on the horizon and we knew it would like come in the middle of the year. Life was in one sense a lot simpler, mostly because we had very few commitments, but it was also very challenging because our support system was hundreds of miles away.
The last year before the move was particularly challenging for me because we hit the end of the 3s and the beginning of the 4s with Sweet Girl. There is a series of books by Louise Bates Ames that covers each age/stage that children go through, highlighting where they are in terms of growth, how they have changed in the past year, what is unique to their current age and gives advice on how to handle the changing and growing. As with any book on parenting, I don’t agree with every word written but I find these books really helpful developmentally speaking, and I find that they demystify things for me. They help me to feel less frustrated about the changes that come and go in my children because I find myself less caught off guard. I was, as a wise mom-before-me put it, finding myself outside of the honeymoon phase of parenting Sweet Girl. She recommended Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful. I knew just by the title that this was a must-read for me, and it really helped me make it through the gap of time where we could not put our daughter in school even though she was more than ready. In other words, it helped cut the negativity that I felt was starting to color our relationship and helped me to fill her love cup.
Filling the love cup/tank is a phrase that I have run across a number of times now in articles, posts, etc. It refers to a child’s emotional fuel tank. “Their emotional fuel is the attention, connection, and nurturing they receive from the people they love.” – Pam Leo. Pam, from the Natural Child Project, highlights how attention is good and helpful, but connection happens through truly engaging children which then strengthens emotional bonds. I have seen this to be true time and time again with Sweet Girl. And I am no expert. Nor do I feel like I accomplish the filling of the cup the way I wish I could on a daily basis. But that’s where you, people of our life (!), come in 🙂
Since moving we have gained the family mentioned above, which means my kids gained an extra sibling in an instant that I did not have to birth (fist pump!)…but given that we are 9 months into this adventure and all its challenges, I sometime wonder if birthing might have been easier…ha! My husband and I have gained the opportunity to go out more than once in a blue moon because we now have an arsenal of babysitters at our finger tips We have gained a small, tight-knit school family that we are getting to know and love very much, and a city that has so much to do we will never exhaust all that is available even if we live here for the rest of our lives.
People! Love cups are being filled left and right and it’s not all on me! Do I hear an Alleluia chorus?? Can I get an AMEN?!
Babysitters fill love cups when they play the exact game with the exact rules that Sweet Girl invents on the spot, and they do so with even more excitement and enthusiasm than Sweet Girl. I am telling you, I cannot fill that portion of the cup.
School fills love cups because teachers are Sweet Girl’s heroes and they love her no matter what every.single.day. They see things in her that I don’t see. She let’s them see things about her that don’t come alive at home because the teachers bring new life from her wild and wonderful little self. School, by definition to Sweet Girl, is “a big building full of the most friends of her entire life”. She could never spend too much time at school. She hopes, with all her love-gushing-heart to marry two of her classmates and her favorite part of the day is lunch (without fail. every.single.day). Overflowing love cup, right here folks!
Time with mom, or as Sweet Girl calls it, Mommy-Sweet Girl time definitely fills the love cup in a special way. I also find it the hardest thing to accomplish on a daily basis with school, Little Man, naps, meals to cook, cleaning, and all the things that happen in a day that you all are oh-so familiar with. This is definitely cherished time, and often happens when Little Man naps. When I finally realized that I (personally, this may not be for you) needed to give that time to Sweet Girl and stop trying to reserve it for myself (at least some days of the week), we both (almost instantly) became happier, more loving, more cooperative – yes, both of us. I realized I was either making the time to spend together (because she doesn’t need to make the time – she is ALWAYS ready!) or we were left dealing with the emotions of a cup unfilled.
Arts and crafts fill Sweet Girl’s love cup. This could be at school, during mommy time, babysitter time, or sometimes even on her own if I set things up for her. She has a lot of favorite things she likes to do. In fact, life is her favorite. She will tell you that everything about her days are great and wonderful. But if I could highlight something that really fills her cup in a day, with the exception of being with friends, it’s being creative. Now if she gets to be with friends and be creative, well then the cup overflows!
Daddy Dates. These excursions and adventures fill the love cup in a unique way that I really can’t put into words. I fell in love with my husband in part because of his amazing left-field humor. Laughing, especially in this family, is a very powerful way of connecting. And no one can pull this off better than Daddy. My husband tries to take Sweet Girl out on his own more than a few times a year. They often go out for breakfast and then to a book store. Reading is one of “their things”. The latest adventures in reading include comic books, especially Calvin and Hobbes and Star Wars. If Daddy loves it, Sweet Girl loves it more. For this we fill up a whole case of love cups, no problem.
I could go on and on with examples of how I have seen the love cups filled, and I am sure we are just scratching the surface. The love that others have for my child helps me to help her to fill her cup. W
I say cheers (clink!) to filling the love cup one (or one thousand!) connection(s) at a time!
How does your family fill love cups? I wanna know!
Finally, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors, Lemony Snicket. This is for you, Sweet Girl!
“…I will love you until the bird hates a nest and the worm hates an apple, and until the apple hates a tree and the tree hates a nest, and until a bird hates a tree and an apple hates a nest, although honestly I cannot imagine that last occurrence no matter how hard I try. I will love you as we grow older, which has just happened, and has happened again, and happened several days ago, continuously, and then several years before that, and will continue to happen as the spinning hands of every clock and the flipping pages of every calendar mark the passage of time, except for the clocks that people have forgotten to wind and the calendars that people have forgotten to place in a highly visible area…”