Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Personal buckets

I think it's the kindergarten age or something, but tattling is a big issue right now. My kids definitely like structure and knowing what the rules are, which leads to them noticing when fellow classmates aren't following them. Even before Talia and Quinn started school, we attempted to steer them away from tattling on each other, constantly telling them to "use their words" and to work out a compromise before coming to us. But, I still hear things like "Quinn is in my waaaaay!" and "Talia is looking at meeeee!". It's a constant work in progress. Sigh.

As part of the tattletale education and aversion therapy, I ordered a few books. One is Tattlin' Madeline, and the other one, and my favorite is called Have you Filled a Bucket Today - A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. Now, I know it sounds like a cheesy kid self-help book, but it's actually really good. The book is based on a concept called bucketfilling and the idea is that we are all born with an invisible "bucket" and carry it around with us. According to the book, the purpose of the bucket is to "hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself" and you are happy when it's full and sad when it's empty. You fill yours and other buckets by making people feel special and by doing nice things. A bucket dipper "says or does mean things that make others feel bad", thus dipping into your bucket and theirs. I love that it teaches you to feel positive about doing good deeds for others and to think twice before doing something mean, ultimately making one more aware of how you affect others, good or bad.

Now that my little learners understand how being a tattletale dips into buckets and can lead to losing friends, they hardly tattle tale at all now, or so they tell me. But, humm, they now notice how often other kids still tattle and how annoying and hurtful it is. Funny how that happens and it is one of the most powerful tools - having the tables turned on you and realizing how lousy it feels.

As usual, my kids always have something to teach me. While I'm reinforcing the personal bucket idea to them, it also makes me think about mine. I don't really like psychobabble, but it's an interesting concept and makes sense. I love the idea that it's not about doing grand gestures and saving the world, but more about doing (or not doing) little things. Telling someone they look pretty can go a long way - showing that we notice them and giving them a smile (fill + fill). It can even be as simple as looking the sales clerk in the eyes (filling) instead of talking on the cell phone the whole transaction (dipping). Or, my husband turning on the outside light for me when I'm out late (filling) or when I forget to kiss him goodnight (dip dip). While my kids were in their gym class yesterday, the most annoying mom ever was bragging loudly to her loyal followers (and the whole room) about her big audition for a new mommy show on the Food Network. She like said like oh my god like more times than I can like count and if I was forced to watch her on tv it would be like going to a Neil Young concert - yes, sheer torture. But, her "fans" seem to love her and she's probably like totally a great cook and like a fun friend, and while I had bucket dipping visions of pushing her off the highest balance beam, I chose to wish her good luck in my head, put in my iPod headphones, and concentrate on my Body and Soul magazine instead. Wait, where was I going with this...oh ya, buckets.

I wonder if as we get older, we add more buckets like we do hats, like our marriage bucket, friend bucket, employee bucket, parent bucket, etc. If we spend too much effort on keeping our work bucket full do we dip into our family one? If our parent bucket gets depleted after a rough day with the kids, do we have anything left in us to help keep our marriage bucket full? If we neglect a friend and the friendship buckets stay empty too long can they ever be filled again? Are there some people that simply lack the gene to understand this concept, like emotional vampires? Uh oh, my head is starting to spin. I'm thinking too much about this. Anyway, start fillin' those buckets and please have a lovely and meaningful day. I like totally mean it.

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