Playground Perspectives: The Dance of Days

Parenting gets more interesting every day, especially when I'm able to spend less time supervising Thea and more time just being with her, and with her and Nikole.

When we're wandering around town these days, we tend to find ourselves straddling that great divide betweenkeeping the parenting ball in motion and giving our daughter space to breath, explore, grow.

It's a hard balance. But it has been getting easier as she's been getting older. Funny how that works.

In recent months, we've tried to be aware that she's getting older, and deserves opportunities to stretch her proverbial wings, to explore the boundaries, to discover safe places in the world absent the shadows Nikole and I cast. It's fun to watch (though occasionally unnerving).

Thea, her Omie (my mom) and I took a bus to the Folk Festival last month. The weather was gorgeous, and Thea was dressed in her finest mismatched ensemble. The minute we stepped off the bus, she was a bolt of lightning -- running nonstop and pell-mell, and dancing up a storm. But she also listened well. The combination of the environment, her energy and her good listening (and the attentive eyes of her Omie and myself) made it easy to let her stretch the boundaries and explore on her own.

A similar routine plays out in smaller venues. Our small family hits the town most Saturday mornings -- breakfast at Perly's, a swing by the Lakeside Farmers Market, a visit to the library. She regularly walks the tip back to our waitress, and selects flowers for her mom with Miss Terry at the market. She checks out her own books. Seeing her confidence grow and her sense of self expand into the world is such fun -- and very reassuring!

It helps that her assertiveness has increased, consternating as it can be. "I can do it myself!" is her latest indignant refrain -- along with a sassy, "You are annoying me so much right now, Dad!"

Not only can she do more for herself, but she's not shy about letting us know it.

What is it allows that combination of love, attention and assertiveness evaporate from our relationships? It's a rare tension, especially in those moments when it feels healthy and affirming. I find myself wondering if I could somehow bottle this unique dynamic we have with our daughter -- I'm pretty sure we're going to need it when she's 13!

I also wonder how different our teams and organizations might be if managers did a better job of letting employees dance up a storm, and if employees had less passive-aggressive ways of telling their supervisors that they are annoying. What would those conversations look like if they could happen with more love and less judgment?

I think it's a perfect question to ask my team at our next meeting. And maybe a good question to explore in other corners of my life. Lord knows, we all could stand a little more dancing.