Wednesday 30 May 2007

Children in the Workplace

This week is half-term for school children. And my childminder took a week of holiday and went to Turkey with her family with a weeks notice. So, Marc & I are trying to juggle child care and work.

Yesterday I solved the problem of having meetings in the morning by taking Sebastian to my office with me. We packed up his little Power Rangers backpack with his Nintendo DS Lite and some games, some coloured pencils and some puzzle books. We dressed him in a smart looking shirt (blue button down) and chinos - the corporate uniform. We combed his hair so that it was flat.

On the drive to the office you could feel his excitement buzzing out of the back seat. Wish I felt that excited about going to work every day. We went through the "Behaviour Drill". These are the rules of best behaviour:

1. Remember to say please and thank you.
2. Use your inside voice.
3. Shake people's hand when you meet them.
4. Speak clearly and look people in the eye when they talk with you.
5. No running around like a crazy maniac.

I was just hoping for adherence to number 5. Although I would like to do that some days at the office.

He walked across the parking lot holding my hand. He was very impressed with the lift (elevator). He got to press the required button for my floor. He liked the idea of my security card access and thought we should put those on all the doors at home. He was super impressed with my desk. I was just impressed to have a desk that day.

My first meeting was just at my desk with one other person and Sebastian was happy to play with his Nintendo next to me. My next meeting was in a conference room with 10 other people. When we walked into the meeting room, Sebastian turned red and collapsed behind my chair. He was scared to death. I suddenly viewed the situation through the eyes of a 5 year old.

There were 9 big (tall) people (all men, not unusual in my company) looking very serious and self-important dressed in shirts and ties. Not a smile among them. No one was happy to be there.

I quickly got out his coloured pencils, grabbed some flip chart paper and sat on the floor with him. The meeting started and Sebastian sat on the floor happily drawing what he later described as a cowboy bear. He didn't interrupt once. Never said a word. And I conducted the meeting sitting on the floor. Whole new perspective!

I went to the next meeting with just 3 of my colleagues. One of my colleagues brought Sebastian some apple juice. Another colleagues gave him a chair and a place at the table. He drew for the next hour whilst we merrily conducted our business. Occasionally, one of my colleagues would shown an interest in what he was doing and he would politely (if a bit slowly)describe what he was drawing. Then he would carry on. And so would we.

The highlight of my day was when we went to lunch together in our canteen (cafeteria). Sebastian made friends with the cafeteria staff and he got some chips (french fries). I got a sandwich and some crisps (potato chips). We got our drinks. He showed me where the ketchup was. I never knew before!

And then we sat a chatted about the day so far. I never do that. I very rarely even break for lunch. Oh, I know everything I read says I should but quite frankly, there are a lot of things I should do every day that I don't. Like floss. Sitting there with my son and sharing his perspective on his morning in my office was exhilarating. He said I talk to a lot of people. And I sound really clever. He said it looks like I work really hard.

Mostly, I was just proud of him beyond belief. Today, I've gotten voicemail and email from colleagues who met him yesterday telling me what an extraordinary individual he his and how happy they were to meet him. Well, duh! What did you expect?

I think we should all take our children into the office with us periodically. Let them see what this place is that demands so much time and attention away from them. After my father retired from horse racing he drove a long haul truck. He delivered swinging beef from Denver to Chicago. Not sure what came back in the trailer. He took me with him once. I never realised how hard he worked til then.

But it was a dangerous job. Trucks are involved in horrific road traffic accidents. He was in one once where 3 teenagers died. He got mugged at gun point once in Chicago. Truck stops were full of dodgy characters and he didn't want to take me to the men's room and he didn't want me to go to the ladies on my own. I was angry with him for only letting me go with him only once. He took my brothers with him much more often. But he could take them into the men's room with him he said. I didn't get that then. I soooo get that now.

Luckily, my job is not dangerous, although those 9 men in the conference room certainly left Seb with the impression that it might be. Take your children (or someone else's) to work with you. Show them what you do. They will enrich your day!


Anonymous said...

Flossing is the key to longevity - keep your teeth and you keep your health. I have little plastic ones called PlacquersII. We could make a believer of you!

Shirley said...

Your day reminds me of when my kids were that size and I would take them to the office. They were really shy around all the people. Their favorite thing to do was draw a picture and make a copy of it. (No copiers at home in those days.)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic - and hilarious. I can just imagine the meeting conducted from the floor - it reminds me of our white boarding sessions years ago together....well done Hx

Janell said...

Wonderful story about Seb. I went with my dad in his truck to Denver once. Gives me an idea for a post on OSM.