When I was little, my mom worked a lot, and on weekends I would often tag along. She was a Promotions Director for a local radio station so weekends were filled with things like concerts, giveaways, and parades. Because she was single, she couldn’t get sitters for every single promotion she had to work, so I would tag along and do my best to help. Whether we were at concerts and I was directing ticket winners to the VIP reception in the bowels of an arena, or explaining to people arriving at an event what would be taking place that day, or simply handing out gift bags, I went with her everywhere. Because of this upbringing, I became at ease with event planning and execution. Comfortable with large groups of people and strangers. And a little more worldly than I would have been had she left me at home.
While I remember those weekend adventures fondly, for some reason as a mother myself, I’ve kept our little girls away from my work. I’ve maintained that whenever possible, the little girls should stay home with my husband or in rare cases a sitter, so they don’t have to be dragged around with me for work. Since I met my husband I’ve been heavily involved in local charity events, whether through my actual jobs or with organizations about which I’m passionate, and not once have I involved my little girls.
Both my husband and I tend to work a lot. There are many evenings when he will return to the office after the little girls are in bed, or when I’m tapping away at my laptop the minute they are kissed goodnight. We’ve always talked about wanting them to grow up understanding the importance of hard work and with strong work ethic. For some reason we’ve been assuming that simply seeing us rush back to the office or work from home would instill those things.
A couple of weeks ago we received a birthday party invitation for my littlest little girl. It was on a Saturday that my husband had school, and I had an event I’ve worked on for more than ten years, leaving my oldest little girl with no plans. I had this great idea that she should come along with me to help. We worked out the details of getting our littlest little girl taken care of and decided my oldest would come with me.
As the day grew near, my husband asked several times if we didn’t just want to make plans for our oldest little girl, so she wouldn’t have to tag along. I started to waver…we always keep them home or with friends if possible…no need for her to have to work this event too. I decided to ask her what she thought. I told her that each year, I sat on the committee that planned the Kids Race for the Cure. I show up early, help prepare, work the race, clean-up, and head home. I told her she could come with me to help or that we could find her something to do. She nearly jumped out of her skin she was so excited.
Saturday morning she and I bundled up. Layers, and hats, and gloves. Because really…why wouldn’t it be sleeting and in the 40s on a mid-May morning?! As soon as my littlest little girl was picked up, we were off. First on our list, breakfast and hot drinks at Starbuck’s. On the way I explained that she was now an official committee member and that she had very important jobs to do. I went through each one and she listened intently…taking stock of all of her new responsibilities. My mom is in charge of the committee, and my aunt is also involved, so I assured her that she would know several people there.
We got to the Mall of America and found a mess. The winds the previous night had wreaked havoc on the tents and displays that had been pre-set. We scrambled to prepare for the families that would soon be arriving. My oldest little girl chalked the course while I helped repair the area. She’s old enough now that I can direct her and she will run off to complete her tasks. She met up with the daughters of other committee members and continued to get ready for the day.
With brief moments for us to touch base, we would hop around and hug to keep each other warm, and then we’d split up again to see to our respective jobs. When it was race time, I joined her at the finish line where she would be passing out medals to all kids who completed the race, and I would serve as bouncer, not letting any children out of the closed off race area until there was a parent to match. As each heat finished, I kept an eye on my oldest little girl, and she was a) doing a GREAT job, and b) having a BLAST.
Because of the cold there were less families than normal. The heats finished quickly and soon enough we were done! When I turned around after the last child had been picked-up by a parent, she was already hauling boxes and cleaning up with a new little friend she’d made. When I caught up to them she exclaimed “I’m not even cold mommy!” I, on the other hand, was freezing! We quickly cleaned-up, grabbed our stuff, and headed for the car.
As we made our way to Subway for lunch, a promise I’d made when she said she wanted to help, she started talking quickly. “That was SO FUN. I LOVED IT. We HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR!” I told her she had joined the committee and was partially in-charge of the event and making it a success. That because of that, she HAD to help next year (schedule permitting). She beamed. We had lunch and finally met-up with my husband and littlest little girl. For the rest of the day she talked on and on about the things we’d done, how cold it had been but that we’d toughed it out, and how my littlest little girl simply HAS to help next year.
That night, after the little girls were in bed, I started to think about why we’ve sheltered these little girls from our actual work. I know that I did these things as a kid with my mom because it’s what we had to do at the time. But the truth is, I also really enjoyed it, and on Saturday I saw a glimpse of my oldest little girl doing the same. She loved the responsibilities that were bestowed upon her. And I think she really enjoyed watching one of her parents hard at work at something so cool and big. She hadn’t been shy or unwilling to help at all…but the opposite…enthusiastic and more than willing to do whatever was asked of her. It was cold, and sleeting, and she was proud, and confident, and happy, and excited to be with me.
If we want our girls to grow up with a strong work ethic, and if we want them to have a sense of our bigger community, and if we want to beef up their confidence in their abilities to do whatever comes their way, what could be better than putting them to work when things like this come up?! To give them some power in the real world and let them run with it?
TODAY: What if I bringing the little girls along to work functions can be an adventure for them instead of something to protect them from?