Playground Perspectives: March 2012

My daughter lost a button to her princess dress this morning.

By “lost” I mean she woke up at 5:30 in the morning, put on her dress, walked into our bedroomand woke us up, and burst into a cataclysm of tears. “Daddy, I have lost a button to my special princess dress!” By “lost” I also mean she completely lost it emotionally.

Whatever did I do before drama became part of my daily life? Oh, right. I worked with peo ple – and their everyday drama.

We like to pretend that drama comes in one flavor, and socially we tend to push it off as a negative. Yet, sometimes Thea’s drama surfaces real goose bumps for me – and deep, positive memories of my own childhood. Last month’s snow, for instance.

Thea was so excited about the snow that started falling Sunday afternoon, she was about to bust wide open. Which made the slow evisceration of her snow dreams by a too-mild Sunday a bit heart breaking.

I took her out sledding on a quarter inch of slush at the end of the day, and she was convinced that it was the most AWESOME THING EVER. And it sort of actually was.

The snow was just starting to seriously stick when we tucked her into bed. Imagine her delight early Monday morning.

She ran from window to window to take in the splendor of a fully snow-covered world. For a half hour before work, we sledded around the yard – I pulled, she sledded – and crunched about in the snow.

She spent the day with Nikole sledding, building snow women and eating snow cream. By the time she woke Tuesday morning the snow was gone.

Her day in the snow was, for her, the most magical day.

Broken mornings, magical days – and sometimes entirely the other way around. These are the consequences of childhood, and of living more fully into our lives.

In organizations I sometimes talk about the Language of NBC (Nagging, Bitching and Complaining). It is, so often, the language of drama, and so we are prone to dismiss it. Sometimes, we just want “those people” to stop the griping and suck it up like the rest of us.

But the power of the Language of NBC is recognizing that we only complain about (and get excited about) things that matter to us. Beneath every complaint is something we value.

Employees complaining about being excluded value inclusion. Terrible leadership? Perhaps you value clarity, vision and direction. I wish you’d help out more? I probably value teamwork – or perhaps I value you and your ability to contribute.

Thea’s values are, hopefully, still being formed. But this morning she placed a high value on a button, which likely represented something bigger to her than the actual lost object. I could have ignored her, yelled at her for waking us up over something so absurd, told her to find it herself – each of those ideas passed quickly through my head in the moment.

Each of those ideas would have represented a self-betrayal on my part. (Go read “Leadership and Self-Deception” if you’re ready to wrestle with that. Seriously. Here’s the link.)

My first impulse, simply enough, was to roll out of bed, turn on the light and help my daughter. Two weeks earlier, my first impulse was to help make the first real snowy day of her childhood magical – even though my stodgy adult self was not really keen on getting cold and wet.

This morning, found button clutched in her small hand, drama quickly evaporated. Two weeks ago, tumbling and laughing together in our snowy yard, dreams were made.

Ignoring the drama – the good or the bad kind – is no solution. Discover what lies beneath it, and help give voice to what matters in the lives of those you love.