I am almost positive that there are people who scrolled through their social media feed and rolled their eyes upon seeing a post entitled, “Pouring My Cup Into His.” It’s OK. It doesn’t offend me. I understand. There are a lot of assumptions that go into reading a title like that.
The idea is that this must be some artsy-fartsy poetic explanation of parenting that, while slightly unique in some ways, is an old concept across the board. It’s symbolism and flowery prose all designed to show that I help my children grow and succeed.
It would be pretty easy to make that the theme, if I wanted to. I can talk about how my cup is the cup of knowledge. We can journey back to the days of Ghostbusters and Gremlins and review the ups and downs that satiated my thirst for life. I learned who I was then and I’m helping my children learn who they are now. I watch them in their struggles and, when the time is right, I fill their slowly rising cups with the overflowing wealth of information I have gotten through the years.
I could totally write about that. It would make sense, right? Pouring My Cup Into His? It would definitely fit. But yeah, but that’s not it.
It could also easily be about energy and emotion. That would be a stylistic approach to the subject too. After all, my cup is full of all the energy I have in a day. Just like everyone else, I walk around and delicately try to keep my drive and passion balanced beneath the rim. Sure, I lose some as I run here and there, but I had always kept it full…until I had children. Now, I devote all of the symbolic determination that I have spilling out of my glass to them. I pour all of my energy into my children’s reserve. I give it all away willingly, even though I too need it.
Again, that’s not it.
It’s not about any of it. Friendship, love, care, compassion, patience…none of those are the symbolic liquid I am pouring. The cups aren’t metaphors for anything. Honestly, they’re just cups.
That’s because this post is literally about my non-verbal son, how he never stops drinking water and how, every few minutes, he comes running into the room looking for more.
At eight years old, Lucas is far bigger than a breadbox, but he’s still my baby. It means that even the most annoying of actions still elicits a small audible “aw” at times. Watching him come speeding towards me at break-neck speed with an empty cup waving in the air like a fiddler in the subway always makes me smile. It also drives me kind of crazy.
His cup is constantly dry. Within seconds of being filled, it either gets poured into his mouth or onto my couch. Giving Lucas a cup of water is like giving confetti to a club kid on ecstasy. There’s a whole lot of dancing and chaos. Everything is soaked by the end.
We’re very lucky to have a refrigerator that dispenses water from the door panel and even has a built in “auto-fill” sensor. So, if he comes a-calling while we are in the kitchen, everything is simple. More water? Sure. Beep. Beep. Here you go.
If I’m downstairs, though, it becomes a different story.
Sure, I will go up and down the stairs when the time calls, but some moments just aren’t convenient. Maybe I’m moving over laundry or cleaning up a mess or writing a blog post about pouring my metaphorical cup onto things. Either way, sometimes I need to be downstairs and his insistence on getting a tenth cup of water in ten minutes isn’t always a pressing issue.
I should clarify that statement. It’s not always a pressing issue for me. For Lucas, it’s the top issue. If he was running for political office, his entire campaign would center on getting himself more water. Maybe some Pirate Booty too. “Make snacktime great again.” I could see it on a hat.
Since he has Autism, he’s unable to fill the cup himself. Maneuvering the top or understanding the mechanism on the fridge just aren’t possible right now. So, unlike his older sister, I can’t just say “Do it yourself. You’re a big kid.” He can’t. I know that. In that moment, he’s at my mercy and it’s my responsibility. I’m the one who has to satisfy his thirst.
So, I pour my actual cup of water into his.
It doesn’t matter how thirsty I am or how recently I got it. My water is his water. I go without, so that my son can have. I want to say that it’s a choice I make as a parent, but it’s not. It’s an instinct that I do almost automatically.
I realized how automatic it is this past weekend after another round of vine-pulling garden fun. Covered in dirt and scratches, I had finally made my way back inside and poured myself a big glass of ice water. It was type of drink that coats your esophagus going down with heavenly coolness. All I could think was, “Wow. I was really thirsty.”
I was so happy to drink it down until less than a minute later, I found myself robotically pouring it into his translucent yellow mug. The fact that I had done it without thinking was a genuine surprise for me. He came running and, almost on auto-pilot, I poured the happiest moment of my morning into his waiting hands.
It was like an out of body experience. A voice in my head even asked, “Now what are you gonna do, dummy?”
So I walked back up the stairs and poured myself another. I’m not sure if I ended up giving that one to him too, but I’m fairly sure I did. I always do.
And I happily will continue to do that forever. I may have meant the pouring of my water in a literal sense, but all of those metaphoric ones work too. Whatever I have is for both of my children. I will give to them before I give to myself. It’s an instinct, not a choice, for many parents. I will gladly go thirsty so they never have to.