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We have become a family of bucket fillers, or dippers, depending on the moment.

 

I discovered this fact a few days ago, when my 2-year-old ripped a Barbie out of her 5-year-old sister’s hand. “Nooooo, Jane!” cried Georgia. “You’re dipping into my bucket.”

 

That was one I hadn’t heard before.

 

The next day, Georgia brought home a sheet with a picture of a bucket she’d colored in and explained how her class was discussing how kind acts fill one’s bucket, while mean acts do the opposite – a sort of extended metaphor about empathy for the kindergarten set. I had a weird flashback to something similar in the 1970s, when my mother kept asking me, my siblings and my cousins whether we were feeling “hot pot” or “cold pot.”

 

The day after Georgia brought home her “bucket” and all its implications, her twin brother arrived with his rainbow-crayoned edition. I complimented his handiwork.

“No fair,” whined Georgia. “You like his better.”

“You’re being a bucket-dipper,” Griffin said.

 

Even I have been picking up the lingo, saying things like, “Georgia, be a bucket-filler and fetch Jane’s shoes.” Or, “If you keep dipping into my bucket with all this complaining, you’re going to your room.” Or, “Come fill my bucket a little bit and give me some kisses.”

 

Jane has even joined in, though, truthfully, I think she’s slightly off the mark. “I’ll fill your bucket,” she said yesterday, in the yard, fetching a plastic, orange pail and plopping in three Wiffle balls.

 

Overall, this whole bucket analogy is proving a productive development in our house. Its language is helping my children air not only their emotions but also their grievances.

 

Just the other night, as I was tucking in Georgia, she noted, “I mostly have to fill up Jane’s bucket, and she’s mostly taking stuff out of mine.”

“True,” I said. “And then I get to fill yours back up.”

 

I got a giant squeeze.

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