I’m pretty sure being the child of a psychologist makes for a challenging upbringing at times. My rising college freshman and I heard another psychologist dad make this point at college orientation and I heard my son say under his breath, “You’ve got that right.” The problem lies in my tendency to over-explain the theory behind an issue when what they really need is for me to meet them where they are, at their level, and not explain it from my own.
The perfect example of me not doing it right happened on our family vacation to Alaska two weeks ago. We hiked, biked and kayaked our way around the Kenai Peninsula with twenty others, guided by an outfitter called Backroads Adventures. Our family alone, with two fifty-year-olds and four kids (ages 21, 18, 16, and 9), represented just about every developmental and ability level on the spectrum.
On the first day, we biked only 10 miles, but it soon became evident that we had not appropriately prepared our nine-year-old Ansley to pull the uphill grades. So Ansley and I brought up the rear with our fantastic guide Naime (pronounced Amy with an ‘N’), a 27 year-old version of how you hope your daughter turns out.
As Ansley’s frustration increased, the tears began to flow. I thought I was being a super-dad by patiently explaining something just shy of how gyro-dynamics and the psychology of perseverance could help her make the hill. Thankfully, at that moment Naime rode up next to us and said:
N: Ansley, have you ever seen Finding Nemo?
N: You remember when Dory tells Marlin,“Keep on swimming. Keep on swimming”?
N: Well, that’s what we need to do. Keep on pedaling, keep on pedaling. Can we do it?
A: I think so.
We made the hill! Thanks to Naime’s ability to meet Ansley where she was, Ansley did something she didn’t think she was equipped to do, and gyro-dynamics had nothing to do with it as far as she was concerned.
You’re probably not leading nine-year-olds, but to be effective you still need to meet others where they are and not assume they see things like you do. So pick one person in one situation this week and Be Like Naime, not like me.