My dad raised six kids, with my mom. But mostly, my dad worked and my mom took care of us kids and the house. My dad was definitely involved and present – I'm just saying that they had a pretty traditional marriage. So, it was quite pleasantly surprising when my dad agreed to our 5-year-old daughter's request for “Papa” to put her to bed during his recent visit.
My dad is soft-hearted and adores his grandbabies, so I knew her request would tug at his emotions, but I thought he'd laugh it off and give her a big kiss and hug and send her upstairs with Jim and I. But he didn't. He set down his keys (he was actually heading for the door to leave!) and headed up the stairs behind all THREE of the girls. After toothbrushing, Jim and I left the room and Papa took over. He read them their books, sang them songs and put them each in their beds with a kiss.
I was awestruck and it got me thinking about the many life/business lessons in this experience for me. I've summed them up here:
1. Say “yes” if you can. Even though he had keys in hand, he was on no schedule. He could put them to bed – and he's not here that often so now was his chance. While he hadn't put a kid to bed in over 20 years, he knew he could figure it out. So, why not say, “yes”?
2. When in doubt, ask a lot of questions. Papa didn't know the routine at all. He rarely put us to bed and he doesn't ever put his grandkids to bed. Since we have monitors in the bedrooms, we could hear him working through the details with the girls. He just kept asking, “now what do we do next? Are you ready to get in your bed?” and “Do you want me to leave the light on or off?” (on, of course – which is not how we put her to bed, but who cares?!) It's possible to figure out many difficult things by asking people who know a lot about how to do them. Putting kids to bed can be quite tricky and he didn't let pride get in the way of discovering the best strategies straight from the source.
3. Sing Your Version of the Song. Over the monitor, I could hear the conversation loud and clear. Papa kept singing “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are. Up above the clouds so high, like a diamond in the sky…” Simone (who is 2-years-old) would sit quietly on his lap then lisp over her pacifier, “no… no. You are singing it wrong. It's up above…!” To which Papa would say, “Okay, then, you tell me how to sing it.” Then they'd sing along together and it was the most beautiful of all bedtime singing. He had to sing his version for them to have this very cool exchange then learn to sing in chorus.
4. Run While You Can. Once Papa convinced Simone to get into her bed (after a few impressively handled objections), he hurried down the stairs, huge smile and a sigh of relief. Then he collected his partner and they raced out the door. His work was done and it was time to get home and relax. When you know you have done your best work, gracefully say your goodbye's and let your clients get on with their work (or sleep, in this case) as well. You'll meet again soon, considering how well things went this round.
That's why Simone already had plans for Papa to put her to bed again the next night.
My dad is a savvy business guy. He probably knows all this stuff already in the business realm. But seeing it play out in his Papa role made it so clear to me how these takeaways apply in many domains of life. I love the way life informs us in totally creative ways when we open our eyes and minds super wide.