The Cup

The Cup January 7, 2014

I usually don’t read parenting books. Not because I have anything against them per se, but when I’m not parenting, I’d rather not read about it. Plus, there are so many approaches out there, it often feels like I’m shouldering the burden of cynicism as I approach a specific methodology. Attach, but don’t attach too much for the sake of your sanity. Discipline, but fill their memory banks with a treasure trove of warm fuzzies. Stick to schedules; train your kids to be flexible. Be present, lean in. Don’t leave them to cry for too long, make time for yourself (shower). You get my drift.

I have often found that picking the brains of seasoned parenting veterans, however, to be my go-to method. I lament, they assure me, then offer sage advice. And so, when seasoned parenting friend texted saying she was re-reading Playful Parenting, ‘a gem of a book,’ I knew that I would have to eventually get around to it. Six months later, I found myself perusing the table of contents and lunging into the abyss of parenting literature.

While the book is lengthy and can probably be summed up with far fewer examples, I found myself pleasantly surprised with two major outcomes: the metaphors used to help “reset” my thinking and the strong sense of urgency to go play with my children.

As I come to terms with the strong likelihood of being a stay at home mom for an extended period of time insha’Allah, I will need to acquire as many skills as I can muster. Some skills punch us in the face- living on interrupted sleep, the art of multitasking, breastfeeding while eating dinner, cooking while living in a make believe forest. Others take a much longer time to hone- controlling our anger, changing our vocabulary from negative to positive, and instilling habits in our kids that we are trying hard to instill in ourselves. So, whenever an author or a friend can paint a pleasant mental picture that empowers me to take the helm of the parenting journey, I try my best to hold onto it. Even if it gets me through a couple of hours, it’s still considered a win in my book.

The cup is the mental picture that has been holding my attention recently. Dr. Cohen, a therapist and the author of Playful Parenting, suggests that we think of our children as empty cups that we are responsible for filling. We are capable of filling our kids with a deep sense of security because we take the time to enter their world of play. We can fill the cups with silliness and laughter. Usually, when the cup is full it gives the child more courage to try new things because his/her landing pad is secure. It also gives us those vital moments of deep connection. Flipping through the pages and pages of suggestions on how to play with kids, I realized that I have become so uptight. When that actually happened, I can’t really pinpoint, but for someone who has such a vivid memory of her childhood, it came as a bit of a shock to me that I haven’t even had a respectable pillow fight with my daughter.

Moving forward, I’m going to work on letting my guard down with my three year old. I have to undo my thinking that horsing around is largely relegated to baba’s role. I am slowly slowly adding to my daughter’s cup. We’ve begun by wrestling (daughter lunging at me with full force), running around playing tag, and of course, I’ve introduced the pillow as a weapon of mass enjoyment.

No doubt, I will need constant reminders to be a playful parent- and that’s where this lovely community comes in. Please share your tips on how you let your guard down with your kids and what mental metaphors help you sojourn the parenting journey. Let’s work on filling one another’s cups as we strive to fill the cups of those entrusted to us.

Marwa Aly
Marwa is the mother of two kids. She loves playing volleyball, learning about self development, and drinking a good cup of coffee. You can find more of her writing at

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