Meltdown! 8 Year Old Style!

Do you live with a child that’s an introvert?  I do, and sometimes I lose sight of that.  Read about what happens when a parent forgets.

Meltdown! 8 Year Old Style!.

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Meltdown! 8 Year Old Style!

As many of you that know me and follow my blog know, I am the father of the three wonderful daughters.  My oldest is 10.  My youngest is 4.  My youngest acts more mature than the 10 year old at times, but she is really only 4.

My middle daughter, Ansley, is 8.  Ansley is a very pretty girl.  When she was a baby, her face resembled that of a porcelain doll.  She has beautiful blue eyes and brown hair and is quite tall for her age.  Ansley is different than her sisters.  Her sisters like to stay on the move.  They enjoy activities and seem to always need to be entertained.  Ansley enjoys laying around in her pajamas, watching TV, and eating junk food.  Her idea of a great Saturday is never getting dressed and never leaving the house.  She’s a kid that needs to unwind.  Ansley needs what I call “Ansley time.’  She is a classic introvert in my opinion, and that’s OK.  Her mother and I are introverts, and we’ve turned out just fine.

There are days when Ansley is a delight to be around.  She’s inquisitive and cheerful.  She loves to talk about things that happen in school, in church, and just life in general.  She asks questions about God, science, and other things that might interest her at that moment.  However, there are some days where a switch flips, and she turns into what I call “Evil Ansley.”  I referenced “Evil Ansley” in a prior post when her mother was away at a conference.  We had dinner together that night.  That was the night she picked fights with her sisters and dropped her ice cream on the floor.  It was not a night to remember – especially with Mommy not around.

Well “Evil Ansley” paid a return visit to the Vereen house this fine Thursday evening.  Carrie and the girls got home a little late this evening.  They decided to grab some dinner and go watch a friend’s baseball game at the neighborhood field.  When they got home there were chores to do, and the girls needed to get their lunches ready for school tomorrow.  Ansley came out to help me water the yard.  All seemed to be going well.  The girls took showers and started to get ready for bed.

Every night, we have to remind the girls that they need to do two things.  Brush their teeth, and brush their hair.  It never fails that they forget to do one or the other.  It’s baffling to me.  Surely, I never did anything like that, right?  So if someone can tell me why this happens, I’m all ears.

In our house, Carrie usually handles the chore of getting them ready for bed.  I believe the girls need some privacy.  So, I usually go upstairs after their dressed and ready for bed to kiss them goodnight and talk a little bit.  When I reached Ansley’s room tonight, she was sitting on her bed playing her Nintendo DS.  The conversation was polite but short.  I could tell she was tired.

When I looked at her though, I noticed that she hadn’t brushed her hair.  It was what southern women would call a “hot mess.”  I asked her to put down the game to brush her hair.  She gave me “the look,” slammed the Nintendo DS down on her bed, and grabbed her hairbrush off the top of her dresser.  She took a few cursory swipes at her hair and returned to her game.  At this point, her hair was even more of a “hot mess” than when she started, so I grabbed the hairbrush and tried to help her get things straightened out.  This turned out to be a huge mistake!

This really set her off.

She looked me and said, “I have already brushed my hair!”

I replied. “It doesn’t look like it to me!”

The meltdown had started.

I continued to brush her hair.  There were only about 900 more tangles to get out.  Ansley wanted me to stop so she flopped back on her bed.  The hairbrush was still in her hair.  The meltdown was now in full effect.

As a father, I believe a young lady needs to take care of herself from a grooming standpoint, and properly brushing one’s hair is one of things that needs to happen on a nightly basis.  That along with a nightly bath or shower and brushing teeth are just standard protocol.  These things just need to happen.  Ansley and her older sister frequently disagree with this idea, and Ansley was definitely disagreeing tonight.

I finally finished brushing her hair, and I told her it’s time for bed.  Apparently she’s not ready for bed so she objects.  The angry tears were in her eyes.  I just needed to kiss her goodnight and walk away, but I can’t.  I tried to explain to her that good hygiene is important.  That if she doesn’t brush her teeth, she’ll end up with cavities, and that if she won’t brush her hair, we’ll just get it cut really short.  This really set her off.  I’m definitely not going to win this battle.  I really should walk away, but I still can’t.  There was a lesson to be learned here.  Surely a highly ticked off 8 year old little girl will listen to reason at this point.

Finally, Carrie has joined in on the conversation.  She has heard most of the discussion and decides it’s best for Ansley to go to sleep.  They can continue their story another night.  Ansley disagrees.  The meltdown was finally complete!  The tears were flowing.

Ansley said a few things I didn’t understand.

I give her a hug and a kiss and tell her tomorrow will be a better day!

I’ve come to the conclusion that my daughter is a full-fledged introvert.  As most of us know, introverts expend a great deal of energy when they are in social situations.  They need time to recharge their batteries.  They need to be alone for a little while.  Most introverts enjoy diversions that allow them to gather their thoughts and prepare for the next activity.  Ansley fits the mold.  She expends a great deal of energy all day at school interacting with teachers and friends.  She goes to an afterschool program where they do their homework and then have scheduled activities.  Some days she heads straight to soccer practice right after that.  By the time she gets home, she needs some quiet time, but there is more to do before she heads to bed.

For an introvert, this can be exhausting, and that is what I experienced tonight with Ansley.  She was done!  She needed some Ansley time, and I can respect that!  Her mother and I are the same way!

I will do better next time and try to avoid the meltdown!

Wish me luck!

 

The Return of Soccer Dad

Soccer ball

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of leaving work a little early on Tuesdays to go and help coach Ansley’s U8 soccer team.  The team consists of 7 little girls of various shapes and sizes and skill levels that have very, very short attention spans.  Activities at these practices are very short in duration and involve lots of water breaks.  At times, it’s more like herding cats, but it’s a lot of fun.

Ansley and my oldest daughter, Lydia, both play in the local AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) region. The league is comprised of kids from across the central and southern portion of Spartanburg County.  So the girls get to play with kids from all walks of life, which I think is a very important part of the experience itself – not only for the girls but for the parents too.

To be a coach, you have to take a couple of training classes.  One is called the AYSO Safe Haven course, which covers the dos and don’ts of coaching.  You know things like don’t curse at the kids or the referees or other coaches or the parents.  We also learn about the AYSO values – things like positive reinforcement and teaching the kids the value of being on a team.   The other class is coaching fundamentals for kids under the age of 8 or what I like to call Cat-Herding 101.  But this coach missed the training.  And how did I miss the training you might ask?  Well, I forgot to write it on the calendar, and apparently, the AYSO coordinator sent the reminder to the wrong e-mail address.  So I had to take the training online.  Not that I was upset about this.  I’m only the Assistant Coach, and I didn’t have to spend an entire Saturday in a training class.

Our practices last just over an hour, which is a bit of a stretch.  We start out each practice with some stretches.  The stretching is mainly for my benefit and for the Head Coach too.  We’re not spring chickens.  As I have aged and gotten more out shape, my need to properly stretch has increased a great deal.  My muscles don’t respond as well to high speed activity as they used to.  My knees and ankles pop and creak and are normally swollen after physical activity.  I assume that’s normal when you’re 38ish.

After the stretches, we move into the drills.  The girls seem to enjoy this part.  We do easy things like dribbling between the cones, practicing shots on goal, passing drills, and practicing throw-ins.  We work on other drills that help improve dexterity as well as speed.  These are normally fast paced and usually only take about 20 minutes to complete – which is a problem when you have over an hour of practice time.  After the drills, we work on situational drills like practicing goal kicks and corner kicks and defensive positioning.

Finally, we move on to games like Bear in the Cave and Ball Touch.  Bear in the Cave requires way too much running for the coaches.  The goal of the game is for the girls to move from one “cave” to the other while maintaining control of the soccer ball.  If the “Bear” kicks the ball out, then the person that loses the ball becomes a “Bear” too.  The last person standing wins.  Ball Touch is like playing tag with the soccer ball.

Of course, we have lots of breaks in between each set of drills.  At the beginning of practice, the water breaks are short.  By the end of practice, the duration increases quite a bit.  I think this is by design.  It allows the coaches to catch their breath and allows me to rest my sore left ankle and sore right knee.

We normally end the practice with a scrimmage.  I think the girls would prefer to spend all of practice scrimmaging.  Coach Jesse and I usually join in on the fun.  We focus on making good passes and staying in front of the opponent when playing defense.  When 7 and 8 year olds play soccer, they typically move in the direction of the ball in one giant mass.  Occasionally, the girls playing on the same team will even try to steal the ball from each other.  It’s during these times that we try to reinforce the importance of spacing and not being a defender against your own team.  Again, there is lots of running, and I think this is where I do the most damage to my ankles and knees.

After an hour and 15 minutes of fun, it’s time to go home, and by then I’m usually ready to go.  The girls came up with a great name for the team this year.  We are the Leaping Leprachauns.  And yes…our uniforms are kelly green.  So we end each practice with a team cheer.  Usually, we get in a circle and the girls put their hands in the middle – a sign of team unity.  Most of the time, the girls like to see who can put their hand on top of the pile.  It’s entertaining.  No one has gotten hurt yet, but I think it will happen sooner or later.

We’ve been practicing for the past 4 weeks or so, and games start next week.  Actually they started last weekend, but we didn’t play.  The other team didn’t show-up.  Something about being away for Spring Break.  Some people need to get their priorities straight – I guess.  S0, we won by forfeit.

A win is a win in my book.

So Saturday is our first real game.  The team gets to show its stuff.  We have a good team in my opinion.

Let’s hope the coaches don’t ruin it for them.  I will utilize the skills I learned in my online training courses.

I promise to abide by the training manual and not to curse at the referee – even when he/she makes the worst call ever.

Wish me luck.

 

 

Making the Personal Impersonal

Has the business world become too automated, too impersonal?  How does the notion of calling employees human capital affect how we treat those that work for us?  Have we gone too far?  Let me know what you think.

Making the Personal Impersonal.

Making the Personal Impersonal

Handshake

As a manager, one of my favorite days of the week is payday.  When payday rolls around people always seem to be in a good mood.  They have some money in their bank account or their pockets and usually have plans to have some fun with that money – maybe a night out with the boys, a date, or a trip with the family.  Some people may just need the money to pay bills.  Either way, making money is why we work.  And payday is something we all look forward to.

I know when I worked for my Dad, I always looked forward to getting that paycheck on Friday.  I would go to the bank and deposit most of it in my savings account and keep a little bit for something fun like a night out with my friends or a date.  Getting the paycheck at the end of the week was the reward for a job well done.  I remember going to the office on those Fridays and either the office manager or my Dad would hand out the paychecks to myself and the other workers, and he would say two very important words to all of us – “Thank you.”  It was his way of showing his appreciation for all of our hard work that week, and we all appreciated it.  It was a simple gesture that made a great impact.

When I became a manager of lots of people (about 70 or so) at the ripe old age of 27 years old, I looked forward to getting that bag filled with pay stubs for the folks that worked for me each week.  I would sit down and sort them by shift and then put them away for safe-keeping.  When Thursday and Friday rolled around, I would walk around the plant and try to personally deliver the pay stubs to everyone that worked for me.  My goal in doing this was to make sure that I personally thanked everyone for all of their hard work and efforts that week.  I felt it was important to make that personal connection just like my Dad did when I worked for him.  I even did this, at times, when I managed managers.

So, when I found out that my company was moving to an automated system for accessing pay stubs, I was not happy to say the least.  Although, I no longer hand out the pay stubs, the managers that work for me still do, and some of them take that time to thank the people that work for them.  It’s a good way of making sure managers and hourly associates interact each week in a positive way.  Getting paid is a good thing, right?  Now the avenue for making that happen is gone – all in the name of saving money.

Printing pay stubs each week and separating for delivery to the plant costs money – more than we all realize.  But how does the cost of printing and sorting these pay stubs compare with the cost of making something that should be personal seem so impersonal?  I realize not everyone cares about getting a pay stub from their boss each week.  The money is already in the bank so why do they need this piece of paper?  But the majority of people that I’ve dealt with through the years seem to appreciate it.  That 30 seconds of one-on-one interaction makes a difference.  Now it’s gone.  Now the associates have been given a login and a password so that they can access their pay stub on a computer.  Is the computer programmed to say “Thank you for a great week”?  I don’t think so.  Is the computer going to listen to the concerns that the associate wants to share while he/she has the full attention of that manager for the moment?  Nope.  The human interaction has been replaced with the computer.

What does this say about society today?  Kids sit in rooms together and text each other instead of talking.  People I work with sit in rooms and send instant messages to one another instead of communicating verbally.  I interview young men and women for management positions that can barely carry on a conversation, but they send wonderful thank you e-mails.  The notion of real human interaction is disappearing.  But why does it have to be this way?  Why does the need for automation and efficiency supercede the benefit of building relationships?  Is the almighty dollar the root cause of these changes in our behaviors?  I’m really starting to think so.  Employees are referred to in some organizations as human capital.  I don’t refer to my family as human capital.  I don’t think my wife would appreciate being treated like an asset instead of a person.

So, how do we solve this problem?  How do we find other ways or opportunities to say “thank you” for that job well done without making it seem awkward or forced?  How do I teach those that work for me that this is important enough that they need to set aside time to do this each week or before a group goes off shift?  Showing sincere appreciation for someone’s efforts sends a powerful message.  It not only shows the person that you care about how they perform while they are at work, but it also shows that you care about them as a person.  Those two simple words make a world of difference – especially if someone isn’t feeling appreciated.  Hearing those two words after someone has had a rough week can really lift a person up.  I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve been told that it has an impact by the person I’ve thanked.

It’s called building social capital.  Working collectively and in a trusting environment helps build bonds and bridges across different groups.  This concept has been studied by sociologists and psychologists since the start of the Industrial Revolution.  So, it has been around for centuries, and it appears to have worked.  How do you think companies became successful?  Different groups of people from all walks of life working together to make something happen.  That’s how.

Ultimately, I believe this change will have an unanticipated negative impact on the morale of the associates on my team – both management and hourly.  Building relationsships and trust is critical to maintaining good morale in an organization.  Numerous studies have shown that a happy employee is a productive employee.  If we keep doing away with what I call the weekly “rituals”, then finding ways to build relationships in a natural setting or through normal interaction, like handing out a pay stub, are going to be harder to come by.  There are certain “rituals” that need to be carried-on – no matter the monetary cost because the underlying cost of not doing it may be more costly in the future.

I’ll let you know how it works out.  Until then, I will continue to find ways to say those two simple words to the folks that work for me.

I hope that you do too.