playground perspective

Playground Perspective (September 2014)

Playground Perspective (September 2014)

Last summer, I wrote about watching Thea wade through her personal developmental journey at swimming boot camp. It was a difficult experience for her - and for us! She was pleased as a peach to have completed the four-session immersion program. And she never wanted to go back.

As we moved into her sixth summer, Nikole and I were determined that our daughter would learn to swim. We had beach and river vacations planned, and wanted her to be safe and to be able to have fun without clinging to us (me).

Early in the summer, we managed to squeeze a handful of lessons in at the Jewish Community Center, one of which I observed from the sidelines. It became clear to us that once a week wasn't cutting it.

Even Thea was frustrated. She quickly went through the Three Phases of Swimming Frustration: dismissive swagger, confusion, and then frustration.

[video after the jump]

Playground Perspective (August 2014)

Click through to read our entire August 2014 newsletter.

Click through to read our entire August 2014 newsletter.

So, my daughter threw her first baby shower last week. It was sort of a big deal for her, and I worked hard to treat it very seriously. Being a big sister is going to be a jolt, and while she's truly excited, I think that Thea intuitively understands that her world is about to be rocked.

When she told me for the ninth time that she wanted to throw a shower for her mom, we arranged a secret breakfast date to make plans. I told her that she had to pick the date, decide who to invite, create and send the invitations, and select and prepare the menu. She was, mostly, unfazed.

The first challenge came in the form of a text message from one of Nikole's friends who made the assumption that the invite was for the mothers and their daughters. Nope, Thea said. "I think it would be too crazy if all my friends were there, and also this is about celebrating mom, not me," she added. Because our daughter is really a sixty-three-year-old sensei.

Obviously, the secret didn't last long. In fact, I think I spilled the beans when I texted Nikole a picture of Thea diligently drawing the invitation. (The handwriting was mine, but the puns were all hers!)

It didn't occur to me in the moment that I was engaged in the important work of ritual. We didn't have a baby shower when Nikole was pregnant with Thea, and while she hasn't asked to have a shower for this second child I'm going to guess that the ritual of gathering with important women in her life - including her daughter - is an important one.

It's certainly important for Thea, who had an opportunity to be a hostess for an Event of Some Significance (as Winnie-the-Pooh would say). We woke early and made scones, arranged the table and cleaned the house. She greeted each guest at the door. The highlight of the morning? She read two children's books to the gathered friends and family -- certainly not the traditional baby shower entertainment!

It has made me think about the role of rituals at work - especially at Floricane, where we spend so much time discussing culture and engagement. Our team doesn't have significant rituals to make important passages and milestones. Perhaps we should.

Nikole is a big fan of totems and small rituals. It's nice to see our daughter following in her footsteps with such attention to the important role that gestures play in our relationships. It's even nice to see that some of their sensibility is rubbing off on me just a little.

Playground Perspective (July 2014)


 Let's begin again...

At some point in the next eight weeks, Thea will become a big sister, and Playground Perspective will take on an entirely new tilt on life. I may just have her start writing the column. 

In one of the multitude of illustrated models we use at Floricane is a developmental model that shows how people and teams learn and adapt to new skills, expectations and changes. It's in the form of a ladder, and at the top of the ladder is "integration" -- that moment when everything falls into place, and the change or skill becomes fluid and innate.

The irony of that moment when "we get it" is that it is a moment. It's often followed by the moment when "it" changes. I'll often joke, in quite a serious fashion, about the "rice paper floor of integration."

One of life's developmental ironies is that as we successfully adapt to one change, the world continues to move. A new leader hitting her stride at matching her leadership style to her team gets promoted -- and has to adapt her style all over again to a new group with different styles and needs. A new team collaborating effectively and hitting on all cylinders develops a new process -- and back to the beginning they go. We develop social media strategies, and Facebook changes the algorithms.

I finally get something of a handle on parenting our school-aged daughter, and an infant son prepares to land in my arms. Thea develops her sea legs as an only child, and a new source of love, noise and distraction changes the focus of every conversation.

When the rules change, when conditions change, we adapt. My picture of parenting is about to shift.

One of my favorite punk bands from the 80s, Rites of Spring, said it well: "They say life's a game all full of chutes and ladders. Then it's not if I win, but how I play that matters, right?" (See them scream about it in this 1989 video. Yes, I still love this music.)

Right now, Thea is excited about being a big sister. I expect over time her experiences of having a brother will fall in the realm of net positive.

Similarly, right now, I am anxious about being a dad for a second time. Some things are easier. We're buying a lot less stuff, for instance. (The first time around, you don't know what you don't know. So you buy two of everything.) I'll be less panicked, I hope, when the baby cries. The dog is old, and will sleep through everything. Nikole has been a great mother to Thea, and will be an even better mother to this new tyke.

But I don't think for one second that this chapter will be anything like the last. And all of the lessons I've learned -- about myself, about adapting, about love -- are going to go through a great big reset. And this new child will be his own person, ready to teach me.

My biggest challenges? Being fully present as the nature of my family shifts, and all of our needs (including the poor dog's!) wrinkle and change. Focusing on my way of being with Thea, with Nikole, with the baby

Or, in the words of my old favorite band, just "open my eyes for the first time... and start feeling all I see."


Playground Perspective has been a constant feature of our e-newsletters since the very beginning of Floricane. To join our mailing list and receive our newsletter in your inbox each month, click this link.

Playground Perspective: June 2014


The rare times Thea and her cousins are together, uninhibited and free from distractions, are filled with laughter and energy. Over Memorial Day weekend, the cousins flew kites, splashed in the Chesapeake Bay, built sand castles and landed their weight in fish from their great-grandfather's pier.

Nikole's family place in Deltaville has always been an important summer destination for our family, especially when were have an opportunity to share it with her brother's family, along with her father, and her grandfather and his wife, who live there year-round. We realized this last visit that we were at a magical moment -- looking up from lunch one afternoon, we adults realized that all three children were out playing on the beach and none of us were freaking out.

At home in the city, we find it challenging sometimes to allow our children the freedom to explore, to carve out their paths, to create their own adventures. "The Overprotected Kid," a recent story in The Atlantic talked about a childhood stripped of independence and risk. It sounded terrible! And it made me think about Thea, and my parenting, and the opportunities to give her more freedom as she slowly slides into her own childhood.

The story didn't just talk about a childhood without risk, though. It highlighted an amazing alternative in the United Kingdom called "adventure playgrounds". The Land is one such playground in Wales:

The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It's only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek. "Why are you rolling tires into the water?" my son asks. "Because we are," the girl replies.

In Deltaville, the kids have a thousand feet of beach, a long private road of sand and oyster shells, and a long pier that stretches toward the Chesapeake Bay. This summer, they will roast marshmallows, catch and clean fish, learn to pick crabs, collect shells and colored sea glass and explore -- together outside, and alone in the pages of books curled on a bed, or swinging in the hammock.

They will run into the house for lunch, or a popsicle or to share a new treasure, before slipping just as quickly back into the sun, and the water. And the adults will smile at their joy, and their new sense of liberation, and we will all feel a little older, maybe sadder, but quietly thankful that we can give these young sparks a place to adventure.

For us adults, there will be sunsets on the pier, and sunrises on the beach, and over-warm and sandy children curled asleep in our beds late at night. We will watch them live into themselves more fully in this place with no constraints, and borrow their energy, innocence and laughter along the way. This is how we move through life.