Grown up days

My 10 year old asked me in her
Direct and perceptive way,
“Mom, is it fun being a grown up?”

I wanted to say,
“Not always, my love”

There are anxious hours,
heartbreaking days, questioning nights
breathtaking moments.

There are times of complete
Acceptance and depleting rejection.
There are minutes filled with busy work
And lonely stretched out seconds.

There is wonder. Despair.
Panic. Patience.

There are cyclical ways of birth
and death.
Courage and cowardice.
Sickness and health
Days of Spring and of Fall.
Vulnerable days.
Practical, billable hours.
Of deep enduring love
And some resentment.
Responsive and responsible.
Humiliation and humility.
Of measured hope in midst of
disillusionment.

Days of wisdom and those of vanity.
Solitude and insanity.
Caring and careless.
Aged and ageless.
Miraculous and mundane.
Permanent and
Fleeting.”

But I said none of this.
Instead I took her hand,
and nodded my head.

—Shaku Selvakumar April 2014

Getting childlike with change

When I allow myself to relax and watch my girls, I walk away with some wonderful insights. Take the whole concept of change. It is everywhere. It is constant.

Who moved the cheese? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

If you don’t change, you will not evolve. Right, we get it. Over the past decade, we have witnessed countries struggling, giants toppling, goliaths emerging, traditional strategies failing and unconventional wisdom prevailing. The “future” slogans come at you fast and furious. Jack be agile. Jack be quick. Jack be nimble.

We listen to all these mantras and continue to resist change in all ways possible. Why? Because change is a tough six letter word. True change is to re-fashion, re-mould, renovate, recreate. This is hard because we programme ourselves to resist and love to settle into the habit of reproach. Darn, I do not want to give up my cozy armchair of old habits and use that new wooden chair with no cushion. Like Goldilocks, it’s too hard, it’s too soft, and I want it just right.

Children, however, are faced with change constantly. Every year, they have new teachers, new classrooms, new schedules, new friends, new enemies and new challenges. My daughters go to different schools every few years. Even if they are not changing schools, they change classes. They go from familiar to unfamiliar with manic schedules, new faces, new bus routes, more homework and new projects. If your kids are a little older, change comes when the first semester ends and another one starts with new electives. I am in awe of their resilience and their ability to weather movement.

Adapting to change is not easy, like the inverse bell curve, you will bottom out but when you climb out of it, your reality shifts. As we grow older, we tend to relegate discovery to the basement. We become hard-wired and rigid. Fear replaces wonder and we lose our agility along the way.

Mourn

When you hit the trough of disillusionment (I just love the Gartner Hype Cycle), reach out to your family and close friends. We have no trouble with the happy face, but would rather suffer alone than admit that the curve ball that life just threw at you is more than you can handle. That cold, clammy whisper that tells you that you cannot cope is very real and the sooner you talk about it, the easier it becomes. Little ones come home and rattle off their woes. “Hey mama, I hate xyz. She made fun of me in class.” Or “I don’t want to go to school anymore.” The issue is still there, but sharing it is great therapy. Everybody hurts, everybody cries.

Accept

Voluntary or involuntary, the more you fight the change, the harder it gets. Like the Chinese finger puzzle, you sink deeper and deeper into the stronghold. Downsized. Laid off. New job. New home. New country. New friends. It is done. You look at the cards you have and figure out how to work the deck. Kids walk into a new class every year. Yes, they do complain about their teachers, but they know that this is a fact of life.

Face forward

Or like that Greek myth, you turn into stone. Which is what happens when we stay in the past, we cannot move forward. The past is always sepia coloured and despite the flaws in the pictures, we knew the past so it was safe. If you have moved to a new place, embrace it whole-heartedly. Don’t hanker for your old home. We cannot live in two worlds at the same time unless you know a lot about time travel and the string theory. Children rarely stay in the past or worry about the future. They might miss it, but they are too busy being in the present. And they just don’t have the bandwidth to fear the future.

Experiment

My 3-year-old nephew is always “pushing buttons.” He is ready to go anywhere with little or no notice. He runs after a butterfly, grabs the neighbour’s dog by its tail and lives completely in the moment. Instead of fearing change, we can practice flexibility by starting with small practices like taking a different route to work, joining a multi cultural group or learning a new skill.

Awake

There is a big difference between paranoia and alertness. When you are paranoid, the paramount thought is that the world is out to get you. When you are alert, the focus is often about seizing the opportunity. Adapting just means changing the lens of your own perception. Kids are naturally alert. A cardboard box can become a fort. A walk can become an adventure.

In the words of the greatest change management guru, Darwin,

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.

My column in the Financial Chronicle, Dec 7, 2013
My column in the Financial Chronicle, Dec 7, 2013

On children, change and bending without breaking

Picture courtesy http://www.fotosearch.com
I wrote this a while ago and thought this was worth reviving given the nature of this blog.
When I allow myself to relax and watch my girls, I walk away with some wonderful insights.

Take the whole concept of change. It is everywhere.  It is constant. Who moved the cheese? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. If you don’t change, you will not evolve. Right, we get it. And over the last couple of years, with the global financial meltdown, even Joe the Plumber gets it. The avalanche has started and it will leave no person unaffected.

We listen to all these mantras and continue to resist change in all ways possible. Why? Because change is a hard six letter word. True change is to re fashion, re mould, renovate. This is hard because we program ourselves to resist. Another ‘re’ word. Darn, I do not want to give up my cozy armchair of old habits and use that new wooden chair with no cushion. Like Goldilocks, it’s too hard, it’s too soft, and I want it just right.

Children, however, are faced with change constantly. Every year, they have new teachers, new classrooms, new schedules, new friends, new enemies and new challenges. My daughters who went to different schools last year went from familiar to unfamiliar with a manic schedule, new faces, a new bus route, more homework and new projects. They experience change again in January when the first semester ends and another one starts with new electives. I am in awe of their resilience and their ability to weather change.

Adapting to change is not easy, like the inverse bell curve, you will bottom out but when you climb out of it, your reality shifts. As we grow older, we tend to relegate discovery to the basement. We become hard wired and rigid. Fear replaces wonder and we lose our agility along the way.

  • Accept the change.
Voluntary or involuntary, the more you fight the change, the harder it gets. Like the Chinese finger puzzle, you sink deeper and deeper into the stronghold. Downsized, laid off, new job, new home, new city, new spouse… It is done. You look at the cards you have and figure out how to work the deck. Kids walk into a new class every year. Yes, they do complain about their teachers but they know that this is a fact of life.

 

  • Don’t hide your feelings
When you hit the trough of disillusionment (I just love the Gartner Hype Cycle), reach out to your family and close friends. We have no trouble with the happy face but would rather suffer alone than admit that the curve ball that life just threw at you is more than you can handle. That cold, clammy whisper that tells you that you cannot cope is very real and the sooner you talk about it, the easier it becomes. Little ones come home and rattle off their woes. “Hey mama, I hate xyz. She made fun off me in class.” Or “I don’t want to go to school anymore.” The issue is still there but sharing it is great therapy. Everybody hurts, everybody cries.

 

  • Don’t look back
Or like that Greek myth, you turn into stone. Which is what happens when we stay in the past, we cannot move forward. The past is always sepia colored and despite the flaws in the pictures, we knew the past so it was safe. If you have moved to a new place, embrace it whole heartedly. Don’t hanker for your old home. We cannot live in two worlds at the same time unless you know a lot about time travel and the string theory. Children rarely stay in the past or worry about the future. They might miss it but they are too busy being in the present. And they just don’t have the bandwidth to fear the future.

 

  • Experiment with change
My 7 year old is always “pushing our buttons.” She is ready to go anywhere with little or no notice. She runs after a butterfly, grabs the neighbor’s dog by its tail, says hello to everyone in the supermarket and lives completely in the moment. Instead of fearing change, we can practice flexibility by starting with small practices like taking a different route to work, ordering the bento box instead of the usual sandwich, or learning a new skill.  Discard homogeneity and embrace diversity.

In the words of the greatest change management guru, Darwin,
 
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change”