I’ve been involved in some challenging situations in my time. For example, during my military career, I’ve been shot at on numerous occasions, survived a helicopter crash landing and had quite a number of near misses. I was once even taken hostage by a local militia group. All fairly stressful I’m sure you’ll agree. But nothing comes close to my latest challenge...
I’ve been given the responsibility of caring for my three-year old son and have assumed the role of housekeeper whilst my dear wife has been incapacitated. “This should be a breeze.” I told myself. How wrong I was!
I’ve never seen the movies ‘Kindergarten Cop’ or ‘Daddy Day Care’ but I can immediately relate to the concepts behind them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one minute saying that men can’t manage their children as well as women can. That would be a slur on stay-at-home Dads and House Husbands the world over; but my new-found responsibilities have thrown me new challenges; despite my knowledge and experience of leadership and management. And at times I admit it’s been almost overwhelming.
The thought that such a little person could be even more demanding than the most disgruntled employee was beyond my expectation. He’s an only child so it seems that his only source of entertainment is frankly, making my life a misery at times. There’s literally no escape! Not even during the most private of moments when you’re trying to answer the call of nature only for the door to burst open and he’s stood there asking for his play dough or worse, attempts to sit on my knee when I’m mid... Well, you know what!
Of course, there’s very little chance of reasoning with him. We’re stuck at the Parent-Child mode of transactions. I can tell him not to do something because it’s dangerous, like wanting to play with a bottle of bleach or mess about with the kitchen scissors and he gets it; but only for a second and he’s off to perform another equally hazardous stunt with a live cable or his latest pursuit of ‘fridge climbing’. If it wasn’t for his back catalogues of ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’ I think I’d be close to being certified by now.
So I sit alone at night, when he’s finally gone to sleep, thinking of ways to communicate with him at a level that he understands. I don’t really appreciate him trashing the beds I’ve just made or flicking strawberry yoghurt at the dog and the television. How do I get through to him? What are the salient points in effective communication have I learned and even preached over the years can I employ in these situations?
I guess the answer lays in prioritisation and empathy. He has priority in all things. His needs come first because he’s three-years old and can’t yet comprehend or compromise. I need to always remember and understand that! So Adair’s ‘Individual Needs’ circle from the Systems/Functional Approach to Leadership model is the only thing that I can call upon. I can’t sit at my desk and work or network or blog all day. I have to ensure that his need for stimulation is catered for and that we use the time wisely because we’ll never get it back and because we’ll both learn things through the process. If he makes a mess, I’ll just have to tidy around him or wait until he’s gone to bed and clean up.
On the up-side I’ve taught him to catch a rugby ball and how to handle a tackle. He can now belch with the expertise of a Dock Worker and can kick a ball straight with both feet. I’m very, very proud.
But I have to admit it’s getting easier with practice. And in reality, it’s me that’s doing the learning more than he is. I have to learn to tolerate and understand his situation and his limitations. Like anyone ‘in-charge’ of people should do. And best of all, I now fully appreciate and can now claim to be sufficiently qualified to empathise with my wife and full-time parents everywhere.
So, hats off to those engaged in full-time parenthood and to those juggling childcare with work commitments, I salute you!