If someone were to sneak into my house and eavesdrop on words weekday mornings, they would likely hear…

“You still have boogers in one of your eyes.”
“My brother is taking too long in the bathroom.”
“Put socks on your toesies. It’s cold.”
“Can you help me zip up my jacket?”
“Are you going to take care of your milk mustache?”
“I need you to walk into the car now.”
“Are you saving omelette on your shirt for later?”

The words of morning easily turn into directions, corrections, requests, and complaints rather than encouragement, appreciation, and compliments.

One day my twin boys dashed home from school and exclaimed, “Mom, everyone has a bucket inside of us. You can be a bucket dipper or a bucket filler.” My 5-year-old sons were fascinated with the book that their teacher read at school, Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. The next day I drove to Target and found a mini metal bucket.

The shiny, silver bucket is now sitting on my dining table. Every morning I start our day by ringing the bucket and making some public affirmations. It is a reminder to fill up my family’s bucket each morning. I tap the bucket with a stick just like people tap their glass at a wedding reception. Three pairs of eyes all stare at me. I clear my throat.

“I acknowledge Justin for stepping on my back this morning when I got up with a stiff lower back.” Justin’s eyes twinkle as his bucket is being filled. I continue as I make eye contact with my husband who is sitting across from me.

“I acknowledge Daddy for helping me clean up my mess when I broke a bowl in the kitchen yesterday. I really appreciated when he was concerned more about my safety than the broken bowl.” We exchange silent smiles. Then I pause to collect my thoughts. Usually the last person is the hardest to acknowledge. Quickly I search through my brain to recall an example where Sam can be recognized. I try to buy more time by slowly taking a sip of coffee. Sam is waiting patiently for his turn.

“Oh, Sam. I acknowledge you for being independent by getting dressed without any reminders. You even gave me a good morning hug and a kiss. That really filled my bucket” Sam’s face beams with exuberant joy. I hold my tongue to keep the next sentence in my thinking bubble, ‘Sam, I hope you can finish getting ready for school all the way.’ Instead, I stare at his dark, innocent eyes which remind me of rabbits. Teasingly, “Hey, everyone! Look at Sam. His bucket is so full that he might not need to eat his oatmeal this morning.”

Believe me. I am not a morning person. If I sleep through the night, it was a lucky morning. It takes a while for me to wake up my brain unlike my sons who bounce around the house with their pitter patter footsteps. It takes a lot of preparation and discipline to take mental notes on my family’s positive behaviors during the day. But I know that my new morning habit is helping my kids and husband kick off their day as they head out to school and work. I am hoping that their bucket would continue to be filled beyond the morning. Perhaps they will fill up someone else’s bucket.

Deanna Kim, M.A. Ed.

Deanna Kim, M.A. Ed.

Deanna Kim, M.Ed./ET/P is an Educational Therapist and Academic Life Coach at Summit Center in Walnut Creek. Learn more about Deanna’s work here.