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Lessons From My Coffee Cup

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Years ago my girlfriend invited me to take a class. The only prerequisite was to bring my favorite coffee cup. Most of my coffee cups were plain. I wasn’t very excited about my choices, but I had some time. It must have been around a holiday because shortly after my quest to find a cup my cousin gave me one. This coffee cup was unique and quirky and I loved it. It was covered in a greenish-blue sketch of flowers with an off center and crooked red ‘S’ for my name. It was small, you could see the pottery rings inside and the handle was even a bit off center. It was perfectly imperfect. Check it off my list; I had found my cup.


I showed up for the first class with my coffee cup in hand. After small talk and introductions, the leader asked us to spend time analyzing and describing our cups. One woman said she used the same cup every morning because although it was cracked she loved the way it felt in her hands. Another woman said she liked the colors of her cup and that it was deep enough for a big cup of coffee. Another woman said she just grabbed one off the shelf. She did not think too much about what it looked like; she just cared about the drink inside. Another woman said she liked nothing about her coffee cup. It was ugly and small and she didn’t drink coffee anyway. And then it was my turn. I explained that I usually drank out of a plain white coffee cup, but I had just received this cup as a gift and I loved it. It was unique, it was different, it definitely wasn’t perfect, but it made me smile.

As the class progressed it became clear that the coffee cup was a representation of our bodies. Our cup might be cracked, our cup might be faded or our cup might be a funny shape, but it didn’t matter. It represented our imperfections, our journey, our uniqueness. And yet for years I had used a plain white coffee cup. It was boring and safe and I was tired of it. My new cup was much more like the person I wanted to be. It was whimsical, it was colorful, and it was definitely not perfect. It was time to love and enjoy my cup with all its imperfections and quirkiness.

Life continued and my class became a distant memory until a few years later. Every morning I make my coffee the exact same way; I brew it, pour it, squeeze honey in it, stir it and fill it with ice. If I have not finished my cup of coffee by the time I drive my kids to school, I pour it into another cup so I can take it in the car. On this particular day I chose to pour my coffee into a red solo cup. I drove my daughter to school, parked my car, grabbed my coffee and walked my daughter inside. I smiled and waved at teachers, friends and students while holding and sipping my coffee filled red solo cup. I met up with a friend in the parking lot and she quickly quipped, “How’s that early morning beer?” She laughed and I looked at my cup in amazement. It never dawned on me that people might assume my red solo cup was filled with beer.

As I drove home I went back to the coffee cup metaphor from my class years before. If our cup represents our body, what we put inside our cup represents who we truly are: our insecurities and struggles, our beliefs and values, what we love and what we can do without. But just like my red solo cup, we often make assumptions about other people based on what we see or what we hear. We very rarely take the time to find out if our assumptions are true. And almost instantly I began wondering how my coffee cup metaphor was affecting my role as mom. Was I looking inside my children’s cups or was I assuming I knew what was inside?

And then it dawned on me; the best way to look inside our children’s cup was to go grab a metaphorical cup of coffee. No, I am not advocating for young coffee drinkers, but I am advocating for what having a cup of coffee with someone represents: time and connection. It is the only way we can know what is truly inside our children’s cup.

Whether it is through play, at dinner, on a walk around the neighborhood or during tuck-in, schedule time each day for one-on-one technology free time to connect with your child. Listen to them, observe them, validate them; ultimately connect with them.

I think it is fair to say that our children and our world need less assuming and more connection. By connecting more we will assume less. Grab yourself a cup, fill it with what you love and go connect. Who knew that a cup of coffee could teach so many life lessons!

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