Make It A Party
It’s all how you look at it
My mom grew up in a tough neighborhood. Violence shared the street with kids playing ball. It was an environment where sharp instincts were required. Everyone in our family can attest to my mother’s acute observational powers and memory for detail. She developed those instincts early, out of necessity. And she has them to this day (much to all of our chagrin sometimes).
I marvel at what my mother navigated as a kid, and how she adapted from being adept in the concrete jungle to the completely foreign territory of raising kids in suburbia. She has taught me a lot about agility and adaptability.
And like so many lessons that we learn as kids, I’ve only come to understand their full significance now as an adult. I’m still drawing down what I learned in childhood, and I imagine the realizations will keep coming. One of my biggest takeaways from my mom comes from an ingenious strategy she employed to bypass a booby trap experienced by many parents: the meltdown when they try to leave their kids with a babysitter.
We’ve all been there: either as kids ourselves or as adults witnessing the full-on retribution of a toddler (or even pre-tween) who does not appreciate being left with a stand-in. Dread and foreboding mark the days leading up to the BIG moment, and then comes the flood of apologies, assurances, and anxiety-laden hugs… that may or may not still end in one party wailing while the other party walks out the door.
My mother had a different approach.
Why have a tragedy when you have a treat?
In other words, she made the night out a special event for us kids, too.
From the time she booked the babysitter, my mom would start building our anticipation for the big event. Our big event. Yeah, sure, she and my dad were going out for dinner (or theater or what-have-you) but we were hosting a party with a teenager! She would get us personally invested by having us come up with ideas for the evening. What would you like to do? What games would you like to play?
We started dreaming up activities, we made shopping lists for special snacks (which included ones we wouldn’t have been allowed to eat on just any day), and even went to the store to procure the chosen items. We helped mom clean up the downstairs and set out the goodies and, if the arrival time was late enough, we got dressed in our nightgowns. We were ready. Our focus was on our night and we were looking forward to it. Parents? We’ll see them in the morning.
Mom made having a babysitter fun.
Her tactic worked really well for us kids… and I’ve found that it works really well for adults, too. I’ve seen it come through time and again, whether the adult is a client, a colleague, family member, a friend, or me.
Whenever there is something that I know is important for me to do, but I am not looking forward to it, I start asking myself, “Is there another way I can see/feel about this situation?” And then I wonder how I can flip it. Thanks to my mom, our parties for the babysitter, and my childhood as a whole, I’ve done this countless times (and helped others benefit from it, too), from staying at a B&B in the countryside when I had a crazy deadline to meet, to offering to go with a colleague on a business trip she was dreading so she would have company and downtime to enjoy the great location.
Among many things, my mother taught me that many things in life are negotiable – including our perspective. Sometimes, we can choose to make the moment a party.