Tagged: Enthusiasm

Everyone Will Think I’m Just a Painter

We were headed out the door to an event at the synagogue.  Of course, our five year old was wearing his pirate outfit.  It’s a good one.  There’s the lengthy, leathery foundational top coat laden with the silky, frilly accouterments you might see on the uniform of a real fake pirate.  Also, there was a right-sized sword hanging from the loop in his velvety belt.  To his credit, the sword was the centerpiece of the outfit.  Unfortunately, we simply don’t wear swords to the synagogue.  It’s just not done. 

I reminded him.  He brushed past me without acknowledging the reminder.  I called his name.  He didn’t look back.  He marched to the car grasping the sword hilt with one hand, bound and determine to keep the outfit intact.  I smiled in the light of his determination.  He’s strong-willed like his mother (and possibly his father, too).  It could serve him well some day. Off we went.

When we arrived at our destination I told him that the sword wasn’t leaving the truck with us.  He took a deep breath, he executed a precise and overt slumping of the shoulders, and then he sighed.  After an especially moving dramatic pause, and with a distant, forlorn look in his eyes, he said, “Everyone will think I’m just a painter.” 

I smiled again, trying unsuccessfully to hide it from him.  He broke the fourth wall and reflexively smiled back before quickly regaining his footing. 

Despite his best efforts, the possibly misconceived sword-less pirate and would-be a painter, his giggling sister and I walked into the synagogue. 

The idea of “what everyone thinks” is complicate.  It’s difficult to decipher, it seems really important until we understand that it’s not, and it’s almost always relatively concrete until it falls apart under the weight of self-realization.  

That is to say, we don’t really know “what every thinks” or is going to think, “everyone’s” thinking is typically set on a foundation of our own thinking (and projecting), and what others think of us (real or imagined) doesn’t change who we are or set our course in nearly as profound a way as does our own thinking.  Sometimes we think it does, but it doesn’t.  

In other words, it really didn’t matter if  everyone thought the kid was “just a painter?”  He was a pirate. He knew it.  The trick was convincing him of that “father knows best” nonsense. 

At first I thought to espouse the high qualities of painters, thinking I could initiate a paradigm shift that might comfort and instill a sense of pride in him.  Painters are creative, they have sensitivities that connect them to the world in wonderful ways, they generate beautiful works that drive imagination and spur innovation from those inspired by their shared thinking, and so on.  

I stopped short of enacting that reflexive societal instinct.  I wasn’t going to ask the pirate to pretend he was painter.  I shouldn’t.  I couldn’t. 

Fight yourself to work at becoming a thing you think “everyone else” sees you as or want’s you to be.  Try it.  Actually, I’m guessing that at one time or another you have. I would contend the core of a person is simply too strong to refuse, at least while keeping the person intact.  Whenever I’ve attempted to veer from my truest path I’ve been turned back, as if by gravity itself. 

There are many kids of painters and also assortment of pirates, I would guess.  We can certainly learn and we can undoubtedly grow.  We shift and we change in many ways over time.  However, I would suggest that we are each something at the center.  A pirate, a painter, or possibly something else.  

Children should be allowed and encouraged to get messy figuring out what’s at the heart of the matter for them.  They should try things on and see how they fit.  We should help them understand that a full and balanced life comes along with some seemingly limiting expectations (like no swords in the synagogue), but that they must push forward from a foundation of self awareness, resilience, power and pride. They should know that we expect them to go for it…whatever it is.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Imagine That: The Impact of Play on Agency

Robin Williams’ Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” was a masterpiece. I highly doubt I’m alone in holding that opinion. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading, find your closest television, search it up, and see it now. Don’t forget to come back.

Welcome back!

Amazing, right? Moving and inspirational around every turn. 

I especially love the “use your imagination,” feast scene.

Old Peter sitting at a table with the lost boys, starving while watching a swath of colorful and covered serving dishes being set, steam emanating from each. Believing that they were filled with culinary treasures he could smell the feast, only to be holistically defeated as lids were thrown off to reveal the nothingness inside.  

Peter’s face sunk as he stared at  the Lost Boys digging in without hesitation. In disbelief, he watched them believe. He was frustrated, confused, and desperate. 

We saw nothing, too. Mr. Spielberg gave us Peter’s lens. It was brilliant. He would expose us to the wondrous power of imagination in the same moment it clicked for Peter. 

At one point, Thud Butt (a lost boy) asked Peter if he was going to eat what was on his plate.  Peter looked down, shrugged his shoulders, and then passed the apparently empty plate across the table with is a sarcastic huff.  Thud Butt received the plate with glee.

Just then, Juilia Roberts’ Tinkerbell (“Tink”) said, “Eat.”

Peter asked, “What’s the deal…where’s the real food?”

Tink replied, “If you can’t imagine yourself being Peter Pan you won’t be Peter Pan, so eat up!”

And there it is. If you can’t imagine yourself being (insert your name here) you won’t be (your name again)! 

Then a hint of the moment appeared. The turning point became imminent.

Peter engaged in a Battle of words with Rufio (the leader of the Lost Boys in Peter’s absence). It got heated. Finally, when enough was enough, Peter flicked a dollop of technicolored food-goop across the table at Rufio’s face. The thing is, it landed. 

Everything stopped. Everyone was stunned and/or overjoyed. Someone said, “Your doing it Peter!”

Peter said, “Doing what?”

“Using your imagination.”

Then, from that point forward, without exception or hesitation, Peter Pan was Peter Pan.

Among other things, I’m “Daddy Tickle Monster.” Imagine that.

I don’t know how it started. Our kids love being tickled, they love playing, and they love pretending. They have wild and vivid imaginations. I’ve noticed that all kids tend to.

It typically begins as soon as I walk through the door after work. One of the “littles” (our younger two of the four) greets me at the door with puppy dog eyes, fighting a sly smile, and simply asks, “Daddy Tickle Monster?”

Sometimes I hold them off for enough time to set my backpack down, take off my coat, and say “hi” to Lorelei. Eventually we end up in what I can only describe as a combination of a rugby scrum and Wrestle-Mania three. Laughing, shouting, attacking and recoiling. The kids assign personas to themselves. They call them out.

“I’m Super Banana Jumper!”

“I’m Monkey Boy!”

Usually, as they enthusiastically announce their stage names they leap into the air, only to land on me with an elbow to the lower back, a knee in the neck, or an entire little body smack dab on my head. 

I do the best I can to protect myself. Sometimes as they land I’m curled up in a ball, and then as they try to get up I reach out with lightning fast speed for a quick tickle or an extended take-down. The old man always wins.

Yesterday, our five-year-old executed an incredibly impactful whomp during a particularly energized “Daddy Tickle Monster” moment. Imagine a frozen bag of sand landing on the side of your head from about three feet up. I let our a bit of a groan as I did my best to shake of the driving pain. 

His sister redirected him in a deeply frustrated tone, “Hey, don’t hurt Daddy!”

How wonderful. She truly cares. A daughter’s deep and enduring love for her father is a beautiful thing to witness. Awww. That’s my girl.  

Or maybe I thought too fast, because her next exclamation was, “If you hurt him he won’t be able to play anymore!” 

Still, I know she loves me. I can just tell. I sure love her.

Anyway, they agreed that they should’t break their toy, and they negotiated a plan to “take it down a notch.” Neither Super Banana Jumper or Monkey Boy consulted me as they discussed the situation. It was as though I wasn’t even in the room. No more inflicting driving pain, though. That was good.

Agency, I thought. This game gives them power. 

Imagination, pretending, and playing. This stuff helps kids learn how to visualize who they are and what they can be. It stretches their potential and opens wide the truly limitless possibilities they embody.

If you can’t imagine yourself being (insert your name here) you won’t be (your name again)!

Imagine that. Literally.

I imagine myself as “Daddy Tickly Monster” during much of my life right now. Who would’ve thunk it. In my mind (and my heart), it’s among the most important things I am. 

I also imagine myself as a leader and a learner, a partner in the service of thousands of kids, and a positive contributor the world I share with everyone I pass along the way, and even those I will never know about. I imagine myself this way through the triumphs and the challenges.

I consider it a part of my job, by way of teaching, modeling, and yes…playing, to give the kids I serve opportunities, tools and permission to imagine anything and everything they can. I expect them to do just that, and to top it off, I consistently imagine the incredible things to come!

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Imagine That

In the first week of school our kindergarten teachers put a stuffed animal named “Chester” in my office.  They tell the kids that Chester is somewhere in the building and they spend some time searching for him.  Eventually, they make their way to my office, where they find him comfortably taking a break in a safe place. 

The kids stop by the media center, they see the playgrounds, and they pass bathrooms and drinking fountains. They get a comprehensive tour of the school, chalk full of important information as they search for Chester.  

When they get to my office I let them in on why Chester ended up with me. I tell them that he was feeling a bit sad and that he knew my office was a place he could come to talk, to rest, and to feel safe. I use my imagination. We all have fun pretending.

The teachers and I share some thinking about how kids can also come to me for support, just like Chester did, whenever they need to. We help them understand that our school is filled with trusted adults and we give them suggestions about how they can get the help they need by letting their teacher know how they feel and what they need.  

Most of the kids get pretty excited about Chester. They asked questions, they point and smile, they tell me all about the stuffed animals they have at home and the raccoon they saw in the driveway the night before. Many of them call out, “I found Chester!” 

This year, one little guy stood very still and silent. His eyes were wide. He looked back and forth from Chester’s face to my face. He studies both of us intently. 

Just before following the line of his peers out the door he looked up and asked in earnest, “Is Chester real…did he really come to your office?”

What a great reminder. Kids, especially the youngest among them, tend to believe what we tell them. At least they tend to consider it. 

I told him that Chester was “real” in my imagination. I said I was pretending Chester was “real” so the kids would understand that they can come to my office for help. I shared that our imaginations are very useful and imporatnt, and that pretending can be a great way to learn, especially because all of us have the ability to do it. I smiled and patted Chester on the head. He smiled, and I thought I saw a attempt at a wink.

The Berg kids imagine things all the time. They give me instructions – “You’re the person at the restaurant and I’m the chef,” or “I’m the teacher and your the kid,” or “You’re the brother and I’m the dad.” Then we play, learn, grow, and bond. They use their imaginations to unfold scenarios based on their interests, their curiosities, and their developmental needs. It’s pretty cool, it’s fun, and it’s engaging.

When we think about learning we often visualize something more formal than imagination and pretend play. Undoubtedly, there’s a place for formalities in education. That said, imagination is built-in and easily accessible.  

As parents and educators we have unlimited opportunities to rely on play and imagination, our kids’ and ours, for pathways to growth and well-being with equally unlimited potential.

Imagine that.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. In it together for the kids.

Staff Meeting! Staff Meeting!

We were at my nephew’s 16th birthday party.  He’s a great kid and our kids love him to pieces.  Essentially, he becomes a jungle gym when we get them together.  This time, however, he was surrounded by his friends.  The party was teaming with enthusiastic 16-year-olds chattering away about whatever it is 16-year-olds chatter away about and patting my nephew on the back.  

My kids had trouble making their way into that mix, so they were eventually left to their own imaginations and resourcefulness.  They decided that chasing one another around, finding hiding places and testing the limits of mischievousness would be a perfect direction to in for the afternoon.

That’s when it happened.  The 3-year-old called a staff meeting.  He literally shouted, “Staff Meeting! Staff Meeting!”  The others eventually gathered under the pergola-like structure on the side of the house and waited for further instructions.  I witnessed the phenomenon from a distance and smiled.  I didn’t get involved at first.

Eventually, as the staff meetings increased in frequency the others lost interest.  Sure enough, the 3-three-year old found his calls futile. “Staff meeting! Staff Meeting!”  He continued.  His bothers and sister stopped attending or even responding. They moved on and back to the “limits of mischievousness” exploration.

I couldn’t leave the big guy thinking his staff meetings weren’t important.  He was working so hard to organize them and he seemed to enjoy the so much.  Besides, being someone who facilitates staff meetings myself I thought I might be able to learn a thing or two.  Couldn’t hurt.  She I answered the call.  He smiled and directed me to the spot under the pergola-like structure.  

Upon arrive he sat me down and with great vim inquired, “Ok, what type of ninja are you going to be?”

Before I could answer he listed the options, “You can be the ninja who runs around, the ninja who flies, or the ninja who annoys people.”  I decided to be the ninja who annoys people.  Why fight it.

He told me that he would continue to be, “The adorable ninja,” and off we went to skillfully annoy people and be adorable with stealth and cunning.  It was a blast!

As parents and educators we simply must take the time to engage in the strange, wonderful, creative, and unique imaginative play scenarios the kids we serve come up with.  

They need to know how important we find things that are important to them.  They need to know that we appreciate, cherish, and want to enthusiastically engage in the world as they see it.  

They want to see that pretending is a wonderful pathway to discovery and innovation. 

While we teach them the ins and outs of navigating real-world challenges, we’ve got to let ourselves holistically fall into the world of kid play that serves as such a wonderful foundation for their learning, growth, individualized development.  

Besides, it’s fun:).

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Wait, What The What?

A quote from the 3-year-old – “Wait, what the what?”

This kid says lots of interesting things.  I get it, he’s spent much of this life observing three older siblings, a mom and a dad, and the world around him, quietly, patiently, and with a curious, reflective look on his face.  

Each of our kids have just under a two year gap between them and the next, so they seem to relate on many levels.  They play together well.  They argue, fuss, and fight well.  They share solid and deep love and a bunch of joyful moments with one another. Well.

This one, though, is just young enough that he does a bit more watching than the others.  The others are usually entangled.  He’s in the mix much of the time, but sometimes he’s not.  My wife and I speculate that “out of the mix” watching has given him a unique perspective on things.  We speculate further that it could be at least a part of the foundation of his fascinating, uniquely articulate ways. 

Quiet, thoughtful observation might just lead to joyful learning and growth.  Who knew?

Anyway, as I mentioned, the big fella’s new phrase is, “Wait, what the what?”

He says it when he’s looking to dig deeper.  It’s an exploration catalyst.  

“That cloud looks like a cantaloupe.”

“Wait, what the what?”

“The daddy seahorse has the babies.”

“Wait, what the what?”

“Looks like some ripe, red tomatoes are ready to be picked in the garden!”

“Wait, what the what?”

You get it.  He utters this signature phrase and comes running to question, explore, examine, celebrate, and marvel in the wonders of the world as they unfold before and around him.  It’s build in.  It seems to be built in to all of them.

The 9-year-old is an explorer as well.  He’s an explorer of the world in a bit of a different way.  His explorations fold almost seamlessly into his imagination.

Sometimes he seems lost in thought.  I’ll ask how he’s doing.  He’ll tell me he’s fine, and that he’s imagining that dinosaurs exist.  It’s fun for me to see him lost in the world of his imagination.  I’m a dreamer, too.

I was at his curriculum night this week.  Each kid posted a display of places they had been during the summer.  They labeled sticky notes with a location and drew landscapes on a grid under the sticky notes.  Each sticky note could be lifted up to reveal the landscape.  There were about ten spaces in the grid.  Most of his were current, existing places.  He listed Mackinac Island, Kalahrai, The Adventure Park, The Sleeping Bear Dunes, etc.  

Then, I came across the sticky note that read, “Pangea.”  I lifted it.  Dinosaurs. He drew and colored a likeness of his exploration of a place in which dinosaurs exist.  He did so as a representation of a place he’d visited this summer.  Dreamer.

Imaginative envisioning of the world might just lead to joyful learning and growth.  Who knew?

Quiet, thoughtful observation.  Imaginative envisioning of the world.  Kids are well equipped to learn.  As parents and educators it’s critical that we give them space, time, support, and encouragement.  They are each unique.  It’s critically important that we celebrate that uniqueness.  It’s critically important that we get to know them well, and that we facilitate a process by which they can safely explore and be proud the pathways they envision for themselves, which are sometimes not exactly the ones we envision for them.  It’s critically important.

When I met the 9-year-old’s teacher this week she greeted me with her arms tucked in and her hands wiggling around.  She told me she was practicing her T-Rex arms so that she could communicate with my kid.  She only just met him.  I almost cried.  He is going to spend this school year learning and growing with a teacher who’s genuinely interested in knowing him and supporting his unique pathway.  He’s spending his days with a person who’s excited that he’s a dreamer.  She seems like one, too.  My heart is filled with gratitude.

After one week we are reminded in no uncertain terms that educating children is a fast-paced, challenging, and often stressful charge.  However, even in our exhaustion we are also reminded in no uncertain terms that it’s infinitely joyful and unimaginably rewarding as well.

Let’s find the balance.  Let’s go with the flow.  Let’s always remember the joy.  Let’s rely on one another to accept every challenge as a chance on behalf of our students we serve.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Love

We were in the car the other night on the way home from a dinner out. We brought two cars because I came straight from work.

The big three decided to ride home with mommy. I was with the little guy (who’s actually not so little – our three-year-old outweighs his four-year-old sister by a few more than a couple pounds at this point).

Just into the drive I heard a sleepy voice from the back seat asking, “Daddy, are we on a height?”

“On a height?” I clarified.

“Yes,” he told me, and then he went on to request and inform, “Please tell me when we’re on a height because I’m afraid of heights.”

I assured him that we were not on a height and that I would let him know if we happened upon one. He thanked me.

Then I asked him if he knew about the thing inside of him, and inside of all of us that can help us when we’re afraid. I was fishing for “courage.”

With great confidence this old-souled munchkin chinned-up, perpetrated a wide smile and a raised eyebrow, and he told me in no uncertain terms, “I do know about the thing inside that can help us when we’re afraid!”

I peeked in the rear view mirror, suggesting, “Go on, “ to which he enlightened me (as kids so frequently do).

“Love.”

Of course! Love!

Love’s the thing we can use when we’re afraid. We can use it when we’re sad, when we’re frustrated, when we’re angry, when we’re confused, when we’re down on ourselves, when we feel hurt by others, when we’re not sure where to go next, when we slip and fall off course, and any time we need a boost or a reminder that things are going to be alright.

The Beatles told us, and I almost forgot, “All we need is love…love is all we need.”

For us parents and educators we’re headed into the tail end of the school year. There’s so much to do and so much to think about right now.

If you’re feeling like me you’re not sure how it’s going to get done. You’re not sure that it is.

The challenging news is that it’s not. It never does.

The exciting news is that you’re going to prioritize and make sure the stuff that needs doing does get done. You always do.

Three-year-old wisdom reminded me that I can trust love to help me navigate the challenges and the triumphs of the next couple of months.

If you’re interested, take a moment to make a shortlist of what love does for you.

Here’s my go at it:

Love reminds me that I’m connected to those around me.

Love helps others know that I care about them and that they care about me.

Love puts things in perspective.

Love frames even the most challenging challenges in bright, colorful ways.

Love draws out possibilities.

Love inspires hope.

Love scaffolds optimism.

Love drives confidence.

Love makes it ok to be wrong and to genuinely listen for rightness from others.

Love reminds me that there are perspectives outside of my own, and that even when I struggle to understand them they’re real and critically important.

Love provides opportunities.

Love smashes stubborn pride and supplants it with healing humility.

Love brings me peace.

Love grounds me.

Love makes me know that anything is possible.

Love shows me that light shines even in the darkest corners.

Love feels good.

Love simply feel good, and if the past forty-forty years is a sampling of how fast this life moves, I’d like to feel good as much as possible.

There’s my one-minute shortlist on what love does for me. Writing it was a worthwhile exercise. I recommend it.

Parents and educators, when you’re feeling like it can all get done, when you’re worried about how the next moment, the next day, the next week, or the next month can possibly unfold in right ways, when there’s too much to do and not nearly enough time, when you’re worried, flustered, and super-stressed, try to remember about love.

If you can do nothing else in any given moment, try to shower yourself and those around you with love.

You might not be able to teach them everything you wanted to, you might not be able to see each of them mastering every standard by June 15th, you might not have unfolded every plan or fulfilled your vision of how this school year would unfold, you might be light years off, but you do have the power to shower those kids with love.

Start with yourself, be ok with it being ok, and then no matter where you are along the journey, no matter what you’ve accomplished or not, you can make love the priority from this point forward.

We all need it. We need it from ourselves and from each other.

Easier said than done? Maybe.

Possible? I think so.

You?

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

The Doing…Possibly Even Better Than The Done!

People periodically ask me when I’ll be done with my PhD. I suppose it’s a reasonable question. Even so, I have no answer.

I’m relatively confident that there’s a chance I might defend my dissertation sometime in the vicinity of between two and twenty two years from now. It’s a really difficult thing to pin down at this point.

Are you ready for a bit of what might seem like complaining?

I wake up really early in the morning. I’m no spring chicken, so I have to swim for a bit before I go to work. It get’s my blood flowing and makes me able to move in the ways I think I was intended to be able to move. Specifically in the ways I’m not able to do when I roll out of bed. Ever pull a muscle adjusting a pillow? No spring chicken.          After swimming I head to work.

I have a wonderful job. I really can’t imagine a more joyful way to spend my workdays than doing the things I’m charged with doing as an elementary school principal. Sure, some of it’s more fun and some of it’s less fun, but whose job doesn’t have ups and downs, challenges and triumphs?

Actually, some of the more challenging moments end up being some of the ones that offer some of the best growth opportunities.

Regardless, there’s lot’s going on. Occasionally, even the most well-planned days slip away without the well-planned plans unfolding, and when I say occasionally what I mean is frequently. Lots of meaningful and productive things typically happen, just sometime not the things I intended.

After work I either continue to work until I no longer can, or I do something like take my kids to swim lessons, piano, soccer, pillow polo, etc. To be clear, my wife is usually in on the taking of kids to places. Sometimes, if my wife has a meeting or some other commitment in the evening I head home to play with, feed, bath, read to, and put the kids to bed. Our kids are 8, 6, 4, and 3 years old. Evening routines are wonderfully loud and energized with lots of wonderful noise and remarkable motion. Tiring. Did I mention I’m no spring chicken?

Weekends are half work and half play unless certain ones require more of either.

Again, I know the previous couple of paragraphs might sound like a complaining rant. Thank you for your tolerance. The truth is I have no complaints. I sincerely enjoy all of that stuff. I’m a very lucky guy, blessed in so many ways. The point is not that I have too much to do. Don’t we all? The point is that I very infrequently find myself done with much of anything.

I am a bit of a Self Determination Theory wonk, and I lean toward believing that the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are a relatively important foundation of well-being. All of the stuff listed above sometimes leaves me feeling behind, and if I let it, that feeling can dig into the competence part of my basic psychological needs. It sometimes feels like a whole lot of “doing” and not a whole lot of “done.”

I imagine it’s that way for many of us.

Parents and educators are constantly running, pouring everything we have into every moment, getting it “right” occasionally and getting it “wrong” a good bit too, feeling exhausted much of the time, pushing through, caring deeply, moving quickly, and regularly being told (by others and by ourselves) that we’re off the mark in one way or another.

Good news, I found a solution! It’s not an easy one to implement, but those often turn out to be the best ones, with the most meaningful outcomes.

Here it is: appreciate, celebrate, and focus on the doing rather than the done. After all, are we really ever “done” with anything? Should we be? Done is darn final.

Done is dull.

Done is uninteresting.

Done is kind of bleak.

Doing is exciting!

Doing is mysterious!

Doing is electrifying!

I officially have no clue about when I’ll be done with my PhD. No clue. Officially. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. However, I’m quite certain that when I am done I won’t be doing it anymore, and doing it is really meaningful. Maybe I should intentionally never be done (my dissertation chair probably got heart burn just as I wrote that. Sorry).

Friends, I assure you, I’m doing the best I can, which includes learning and doing better each day, and I still simply ain’t getting it all done.

So, in an effort to honor my well-being I’m going all in on this “doing” thing. I’m going to appreciate and celebrate “the doing” and see how that goes.

Actually, I’m doing it right this moment and it feels good, which is good. When we feel food we’re better for ourselves and for those we serve. The doing. It’s good, and it’s a really easy thing to focus on. After all, you’re doing it anyway.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

[CAREFUL[L]EADERSHIP]

When I came home the other day little miss was waiting by the door (the four-year-old).

There she was as I walked in, ready to pounce. Incidentally, knowing that a munchkin or two could be ready to pounce as I walk through the door is one of the great joys of my life.

This time it was her, and she’s determined (get’s it from her mom).

It’s likely that she’d been waiting there for some time. When she sets her mind to a thing she usually sees that thing through to its end.

The thing her mind was set to that day was that I smell her feet.

I managed to find and turn the key in spite of the random many accouterments I was carrying that day (educators carry a random many accouterments to and from work each day; I’m not sure why).

As the door cracked I heard a small but powerful voice command, “Dadda, smell my feet!” It was hers.

She sat on the third step up with both bare feet lifted in the air. She presented them for the smelling. I acquiesced. They smelled nice.

She went on to explain that she and mommy had rubbed lotion on them, and that she just “couldn’t wait” for me to get home and share in the aromatic podiatric situation they created in doing so.

I smiled and smelled them again. I may have even tickled them a bit at that point. Little feet are fun to tickle.

“Smell my feet!”

Generally, it’s not a command met with eager anticipation and joy. It can be, however, when it comes from a person you care deeply about.

Here I would go further and suggest that feet are generally recognized as “bad” smelling appendages, and that the act of smelling them is universally accepted as unpleasant.

However, I would further suggest that genuine caring has the power to see people through situations that might otherwise be universally accepted as unpleasant to outcomes that enhance positive pathways for all involved.

Where am I going with this? I’m not suggesting we smell one another’s feet. In fact, I would expressly advise against it.

What I am suggesting is that caring is powerful, and that organizations within which people feel as though, and dare I say, know that they’re cared about are healthier for it.

I’m suggesting that those types of organizations are healthier for it (a foundation and widespread understanding of genuine caring) because challenges that might otherwise be universally accepted as unpleasant are sometimes seen as short-term, limited in scope, and solvable between and among people who genuinely care about one another.

In other words, an optimistic outlook is easier to adopt and maintain, and pathways to positive progress through collaboration based on shared core values are easier to pave and tread when people care; not necessarily about the outlook or even the pathways, but again, about one another.

Parents and educators are well positioned to lead the way in this regard.

Dr. Ron Ritchhart reminds us that the expectations we set, the language we use, the modeling we do, the interactions we have, the opportunities we provide, the physical environment we build, the routines we employ, and the time we take to foster healthy relationships based on shared thinking are all particularly powerful.

I say we focus on being careful to adorn our relationships and organizations with caring, inside and out.

I say we take care to intentionally drive relational and organizational paradigms that are care-full in honest and genuine ways.

I say that when we do we benefit.

I say that when we do kids benefit, and ain’t that what we’re in it for after all?

No feet smelling at work. I insist. Rather, let’s be sure to always keep our aim true by reminding ourselves that ours is a caring path and that consequently we are caring people; genuinely caring people.

Let’s use that reminder to face the robust challenges and celebrate the remarkable triumphs together with open resolve around leadership that is full of caring. Genuine caring.

[Careful[l]eaderhip].

Let’s.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Why Not Now?

I was walking to the library with the kids. Lorelei was out, so it was just the five of us. It was a cold but sunny day. A fusion of snow and ice covered the ground with some glazed over, shiny grass peeking through.

Our eight-year-old led the way. They marched like the seven dwarfs, jolly hopping and jumping intermittently interrupted by some bumping and pushing. Laughing and talking mixed with whining, crying, and shouting.

It was a heck of a day for a walk and we were all enjoying getting out of the house after several bitterly cold days in a row.

Instead of going inside when we arrived, the crew set up shop outside the library in the frozen garden area where they had many sticks to crack ice with, some sculptures to climb on, a couple of snow banks to kick, a tree to push, and some rocks to smash and throw.

They found a painted rock. They took turns suggesting places to hide it, just within view of the next passers-by, so that they could find it too.

Kids have an amazing capacity for finding joy in just about anything. If you can find joy in smashing rocks, kicking snow banks, pushing on trees, and climbing on sculptures you should never be bored. I pretty sure that’s a law of physics.

Anyway, our oldest got an idea. I knew it popped suddenly into his head with extreme force because his eye widened, his body shook, and he bounced around as if he was riding on Tigger’s tail.

“We could do a show!” He cried out. He was elated!

The little ones agreed. He immediately set in describing the first episode.

The show would be called, “Mini Missions.”

He would be the leader and the little ones would be the “Mini’s.”

Each episode would be a mix of funny and educational. They would go on adventures and teach about facts.

In this episode they would dig into ice for rocks. He would check out some library books about ice and rocks for the educational parts. They would get silly for the funny parts.

I interrupted his description to suggest that this was starting to sounds like a real TV show. I told him, “I won’t be surprised if you actually produce this show when you grow up!”

He schooled me by asking (without hesitation), “Why not now?”

Why not now?

I pulled out my phone, showed him how to open iMovie, gave him a few basic tips, and about four hours later episode one was born, complete with music and titles. Funny and educational.

It’s a great show! I can’t wait for episode two. He tells me it’s going to be about flowers.

Guess what, kids believe they can do anything.

Guess what else, when we support that belief and share some tools and strategies with them amazing stuff happens.

Why not now?

A good question for parents and educators to consider as we support the kids we serve in exploring their world.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Show Up & Shine

Our kids were playing.

My wife Lorelei and I were watching and working.

She looked up from her work and asked if I’d heard of “Moon Beams for Sweet Dreams.”

I hadn’t.

She told me that our local hospital had organized an event by which people got together on ground level outside of the pediatric wing every night in December to show support for the kids being treated in the rooms above.

She got teary as she told me. It moved her.

We have four kids. I would guess she internalized what it might feel like for the families of those kids; the moms in particular. I would guess that her heart went out for them.

An opportunity. It was freezing cold last night.

Regardless, Lorelei suggested we go.

She decided that the Berg crew would be best served standing in that freezing cold, ushering in a new year with lights shining into the windows of kids we didn’t know, kids who needed strangers to be standing in the freezing cold, shining lights into their window.

To be clear, I understand that these kids needed much more than our shining lights.

However, to be clear again, the shining light of a stranger who cares is a powerful thing.

Lorelei saw this program as an opportunity to take that time in modeling this type of giving to our kids.

She understood that through this program we could drive an ongoing expectation of compassionate living, contributing, and the sharing kindness with strangers.

She knew that our kids, as young as they are, would benefit from the interactions they would have with a community of people gathered to shine their lights on others in need.

She knew they would take it in and understand the healing power that exists within them, that they would build the muscle that makes strong people stronger in their resolve to share kindness and compassion, and she knew that they would take another step along the learning pathway that demonstrates a sometimes shrouded truth about tangible energy that flows between people who open their hearts and their minds to that energy, and who fall into it as it flows freely between and among them.

All we had to do was show up and shine.

A challenge. Not too long after we got going the cold penetrated our gear and seeped into our bones. Our four-year-old daughter doesn’t have much meat on those bones.

She was shivering something good. Her teeth were chattering. She expressed concern about her frozen thumbs. Her face told the story of genuine discomfort if not pain.

I was worried that it was too much for her, even a few minutes in.

She got the idea. She was enmeshed with the crowd of light shiners.

She saw the kids shining their flashlights in response from the hospital window above.

She made the connection and would have this image to reflect on over time.

I scooped her up and told Lorelei I was taking her to the car to warm up.

Before I could even pivot to go she shook herself loose from by arms and shouted, “No!”

She was staying. I smiled and stepped back. She turned her shining light again on the kids in the hospital windows.

A message. It wasn’t much for me to stand out in the cold for a few minutes shining my light on some kids who needed to know they weren’t alone. I’m an adult. The cold was cold but I’ve stood out in worse.

For the kids, however…for our four-year-old daughter and her three brothers, for their chattering teeth and frozen thumbs, it was a least a push; a good push…a wonderful push.

It reminded me that sometime we do have to push ourselves even just to show up and shine.

I reminded me that sometimes our lights are dim, and that sometimes we’re facing things that seek to slow us down.

It reminds me that we can’t let that happen, and that when we do (which we do at times), we’ve got to recharge, warm back up, and try again.

My kids, standing in the freezing cold on new year’s eve, through chapped lips and bitterly cold cheeks, shining their lights on others in an effort to help them heal, reminded me that we’re so very much in this together.

It reminded me that if we want this world to be a better, more loving, more sincerely kind, and a more restorative place with each passing moment we must stand together, willingly leaned into and even swept away by the positive energy flow binding us all in compassionate oneness.

It reminded me that so many of us do.

Our world is good.

I’m so very grateful that Lorelei found and provided this opportunity for our family and our kids last night.

It was a wonderful way to usher in this new year.

A task. So here we go, into the next moments, days, months, and years.

As parents, educators, leaders, learners, and partners in life on this planet, it is our task to take each simple message delivered to us through the words and actions of our kids and challenge ourselves to use them on their behalf.

I recently heard someone say that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, but rather, we borrow it from our children. That makes sense to me.

Our task is to hand it off in better shape than when we borrowed it.

Let’s show up and shine, every day, in every moment, and even when it’s tough.

Let’s show up and shine.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.