Choose battles wisely. If there's one thing I've learned in thirty years of marriage and ten years as a father, it's to choose my battles wisely. Since this is a joint column with my tween daughter, Jessie, I won't go into the many differences between my wife, Mattie, and me. It's safe to say, though, that Jessie learns from two parents who often see and do things differently.

Lots of parents' challenges are fairly universal. "It's time for bed." "Do your homework." "At least try a bite of it." But here's an issue in our family that may not be as common, "Don't fill your cup to the very top."

A few minutes ago, I finished washing Jessie's Sunday dress - by hand. It may seem a bit trivial, and probably is, but I just had my hands in laundry detergent trying to wash a lemonade-stained dress in a tiny bathroom sink, so I'm primed for writing.

Numerous times while dining at a fast-food restaurant, I've told Jessie, "Don't overfill your cup." She enjoys going to the soda machine to refresh her drink. To me the concept is easy - leave a little space at the top of the cup. This practice allows a lid to snap on easily without liquid trickling out, and, with or without a lid, will result in fewer spills.

Now, who doesn't like to get their money's worth? When eating at a buffet, I fill my plate a few times and eat dessert even when my stomach yells to my pants, "Hey, give me a little more space!" Heck, the meal's the same price, so why not enjoy it to the fullest. But how much value is there in an inch of flavored water?

For as long as I've known Mattie, she's always filled her drinks to the very top, at home as well as at restaurants and convenience stores. It doesn't matter what the beverage is - water, soda, lemonade or tea. Hot, cold or frozen, Mattie likes it full.

Kids take after their parents. This is true. But why does Jessie have to copy her mother's drink fill-line and not mine? Okay, enough background, it's time for the story that led me to wash Jessie's dress this afternoon.

After church, the three of us ate lunch at a restaurant. Prior to leaving, Jessie and I went to refill our cups with lemonade. Not surprisingly, Jessie filled hers to the top. Prior to placing a plastic lid on her full-to-the-brim cup, she slowly lifted it to her lips for a sip. Drops of lemonade dripped down onto her dress. I grumbled, "Jessie, you're getting lemonade all over your pretty dress!"

Oblivious, she responded, "No, I didn't." I pointed to her lemonade-sprinkled bow to prove my point.

While my family walked to the car, I complained to Mattie. "I've told that girl a thousand times not to overfill her drink." As I held the car door for Mattie, she handed me her cup and I noticed tea swimming on top of the lid of her over-filled cup. I'm not sure if it's mother like daughter or daughter like mother. Regardless, they both filled their drinks to capacity. The whole family laughed, even a tired Dad.

Although I don't want to waste more battles on this minor topic, as I'm sure more pressing ones await, I would like to hear Jessie's perspective. I'm curious if I'm making progress or destined for a life of laundry.

Jessie, Age 10

Hi readers. Today my topic is about the proper height to fill up cups. If we are going out to eat and we pay for a drink, shouldn't we get our money's worth? I love to fill my drink to the tippy top, top. Sometimes it spills. My dad, no way. He fills his glasses half way. Instead, I follow my momma's example.

For the record, I fill my drinks about 85-90 percent full - an appropriate range. But whether our cups are half-full or overflowing, one thing is certain 'tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. May your life be filled with refreshing beverages that quench your thirst … but don't stain your clothes.


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Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and writer. Follow Patrick at patrickhempfing.com. J. L. Hempfing, now 13, began writing with her dad in kindergarten. Her current hobbies include reading, writing, playing clarinet and alto saxophone and dancing. If you enjoyed this column, you'll like Patrick's first book, "MoMENts: A Dad Holds On." The book compiles favorite stories and new material and is available for sale on Amazon.