On the Tonight Show last Thursday, Jimmy Fallon hosted a segment called Take Your Parent To Work Day in which he asked children what they think their parents do at work all day. One guessed the correct profession, some observed that their mom or dad were on the computer or phone all the time; yet none of them really cared about their parents’ occupation. Of all the kids interviewed, none wanted to do what their parents did (i.e. Finance Advisor, Manager or Accountant), but instead, something more fun (i.e. Zookeeper, Rock Star or Gymnast). It was a very funny and apropos segment, since earlier in the day was Ashfield Meeting & Events’ second annual Bring Your Child To Work Day.
When I asked my almost four-year-old daughter, Mia, two weeks prior, if she would like to come to my office for Bring Your Child To Work Day, I wasn’t sure if she would be shy, nervous, or maybe even a little interested. I vastly underestimated her reaction. She literally jumped up, yelled “Woohoo!” and ran to tell her dad. For any kid, the idea of acting older or being ‘big’ is very attractive. For my kid, she was ecstatic at the opportunity to finally be a big girl. Not only could she see where this magical place called Ivyland was, she could make new friends too. It was all she could talk about leading up the day! For Mia, the thrill and intrigue wasn’t as much about finding out what mommy does at work, as it was about discovering this other world that I live in, exploring it, and making it her own.
As a parent experiencing this day for the first time with my own child, I was both excited and curious how Mia would react to being in my office. After a split-second of being shy, she warmed right up and made some new friends – both young and old. It didn’t take long at all before she made herself at home and strutted around the office like it was her own. As more and more children came through the door with their parents, Mia quickly assigned herself as my little helper and assisted with handing out the welcome packets to each kid, introducing herself as she did. I could see in her eyes how happy she was – to be a big kid, to be with me, and to be with so many new children. It was as if Mia was imagining how the kids were going to take over the office for the day.
After some free play with Legos, puzzles and coloring while the rest of the children arrived, the kids designed and decorated their name badges. However, the project took on a new life as a few of the kids also started to decorate their welcome packet. It was rewarding to watch this younger generation see the white folders as blank canvases and transform them in such an imaginative way. To observe how the children took this simple activity and reimagine it in this way sheds only a glimmer of insight into how their freedom of expression and creativity can so easily be sparked.
The spark continued with the kids meeting to discuss the all-important question – “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers ran the gamut from teachers, doctors and football players to mommies, police officers and, of course, superheroes. When the question was asked to each child one-on-one, many of the kids wanted to be several occupations. For example, although Mia answered that she wanted to be a mommy, her typical answer is “nurse, teacher, mommy, construction worker, gymnast and firefighter.” Yet my favorite response was when a little girl commented that she wanted to be a daddy. The innocence, freedom from constraints, and soaring strength of imagination in children leave us adults nothing short of awe-inspired. I thought for a moment on the best way to respond to her and, almost instinctually, I answered as I would with Mia: “You can be anything that you want to be!” It’s moments like that which made Bring Your Child To Work Day incredibly memorable.
When I asked Mia how she liked coming to Ashfield, she beamed and said that she loved it! She loved being ‘big’ and being with the other kids. It’s that simple. It wasn’t the name badges, the contents of the welcome packet or even the meeting. What Mia really cared about was embedding herself, in the sweetest and subtlest ways, into my work-world so that she could feel comfortable enough to be herself, and, with the other children, explore this magical place called Ivyland. As her parent it made me wish I too could harken back to my younger years and be free and inviting to the immense possibilities that exist in every aspect of every day. It brings me back to a simpler time before there were so many controls in place that inevitably warp our intrinsic creativity. Kids will have fun and be free wherever and whenever they get a chance, even in an office corridor. That is what was sparked in me after Kids’ Day. My eyes were opened to view everyday tasks and responsibilities as adventures and opportunities, and my focus has shifted to not constantly questioning why, but instead, why not?
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