Mom’s lessons from the playground
As a working mom, Adrienne Massie, Employee Engagement Management for HP Americas, is constantly finding ways to connect and balance her personal and professional life.
THE PLAYGROUND: THE PERFECT ARENA FOR TESTING BOUNDARIES
My biggest instinct as a mom is to protect my children, Nigel (age 6) and Jordan (age 3)—mostly from harm they cause to themselves, like jumping from high jungle gyms in their attempts to fly like the superheroes they see in the movies. Or from not paying attention and running full speed into a brick wall (true story—five stitches later, I think Nigel learned his lesson).
But there’s a fine line between protecting them and hindering their development. My duty is to encourage my boys to take risks and to overcome their fears. The playground is the perfect arena for testing the boundaries, which usually leads to awesome victories or painful defeats.
Kids are amazingly risk-averse and strong-willed: No matter how much I tell Nigel and Jordan not to do something, they’ll find a way to do it anyway, often rattling my nerves while making me proud that they accomplished their goal in the face of adversity.
I can clearly recall an early Saturday morning in July, the boys were eager to go to the park before the temperature crept up. At the park, two types of guardians can be observed: those who play actively with the kids, and those who find a cool bench in the shade to hang out and relax.
I toggled between both types—sometimes resting on the bench and others playing a game called “mommy monster”, a game where I growled like a monster and chase them with my hands up. Soon enough, a small handful of other kids joined in on the fun, and they made up their own version of the game. “Phew,” I thought. “This is great, it will really let them get their energy out for the day.”
As I sat and observed, I noticed that Nigel was very engrossed in the game. As he attempted to escape the assailant, he scrambled up a high rock climbing wall that seemed beyond his capability.
“Nigel! Get down from there! It’s too high, and I don’t want you to fall and get hurt,” I said.
“But mom! I don’t want the bad guy to get me. Will you help me, please?” Nigel replied.
I had to pause and consider if I should help him or steer him to an area that I thought was safer. I decided to help him, knowing that once he got up there, the only way to get down was to slide down a pole (which he had never done before). These were two challenges rolled into one, especially since I knew he was afraid of heights!
He eagerly climbed three-quarters of the way up, then looked down. His legs began to shake as the realization of how high he had climbed set in.
“Mommyyyy! Get me down!” Nigel shrieked.
I gave him plenty of reassurance and encouraged him to keep going, and I let him know that I was supporting him every step of the way. He eventually made it to the top and held on for dear life as he strategized how to lift himself onto the platform. Once he made it there, he threw his hands in the air and declared victory!
“Uh-oh, mom. How am I going to get down from here?” Nigel asked.
“You have no choice but to slide down the pole. I’ll be here to help you, I promise,” I said.
After many failed attempts to reach out and grab the pole, I had to climb up the wall to be there with him and coach him through it as he was nearly in tears. A helpful mom nearby assisted from the ground, and eventually, Nigel set his fears aside and safely descended.
Surprisingly, he immediately wanted to do it again by himself from start to finish. He went for it, and he succeeded. All it took was my initial affirmation and firm support that gave him the confidence he needed to overcome his fears.
FAILURE AND LEARNING
Failure is critical to learning, and I believe in the principle of failing faster through seeking a healthy dose of discomfort. That’s where the magic happens. The ability to gracefully make mistakes is a gift because growth comes from learning quickly and adjusting the approach until a successful outcome is achieved.
“There’s something special about gaining firsthand experience –as opposed to being prescribed what to do– that cements the learning” – Adrienne
My job as a mom and at HP is to coach, affirm, encourage, and support others so they are empowered to own their decisions and ride them out to the end. With any amount of personal or professional influence comes the power to either limit or encourage.
I believe in giving people space to learn and grow even if their approach is vastly different from mine because there are countless ways to achieve a goal.
The courage to take risks, make mistakes, and overcome adversity and any perceived accompanying embarrassment is a character strength that can be difficult to outwardly express but is much needed to break barriers and spur innovation.
About Adrienne Massie, Employee Engagement Management for HP Americas: Based out of San Diego, California, I have over 18 years experience in Information Technology. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, gardening, and powerlifting.