As we sat in the restaurant booth, she was busily coloring, reading on her Kindle, patting her baby doll and feeding her. It was Friday at lunch. The restaurant was bustling with activity, conversation and meetings underway. She was an outlier in this adult urban world of industry and persuasion and sales and networking. I saw looks from other patrons of the restaurant glancing our way, curiosity written in those glances as to why a nine-year-old girl would be in the midst of this world of grown-ups. She dipped her head to her coloring, her dark brunette bob tucked behind her ears. I greeted my lunch appointment and we quickly got to work, discussing upcoming nonprofit grant submissions and project developments.
And my daughter sat there beside me, taking it all in, coloring and playing, an observer to that world known as adulting.
For generations and generations, children were part of their parents’ everyday work worlds. From helping with the family farm to apprenticing in textiles or printing to cottage industries conducted in the home, children were given a window on the world of business and work, with its challenges and duties. But a lot of that shifted with the advent of the expression of the modern school day. Now, it seems a strange sight to see a kid of a certain age out in the middle of the day, in the middle of an understood adult venue.
Our kids rarely get a glimpse of our careers in action.
When I was growing up in Southern California, my family had a unique situation in that era and industry. My dad was working on the Shuttle program for a rocketry systems contractor. He had office space at a nice hotel in town that had dedicated office suites on the first floor. During the summers, as part of my dad’s office agreement, we had access to the hotel pool that was located in the center atrium of the hotel complex. My dad’s office window overlooked the pool, and as we swam and played Marco Polo, I would catch a glimpse from time to time of him at work, seated at his big desk, phone clamped between shoulder and ear. And sometimes, if we had been at the pool into late in the afternoon and he was about to wrap up for the day, we would get to actually visit his office, in all of its air conditioned, freezing glory.
It seemed like magic.
This little peek into his world.
Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of fun, sometimes out of crazy schedules with no other seeming option, our kids sometimes accompany Michael or I on meetings or work trips. At first I felt somewhat apologetic or nervous about how that would be received. But I’m feeling a bit bolder now. If I’m really serious about this handing off of wisdom and experience and equipping to the next generation, then I need to be willing to apprentice them, to give them experiences about how meetings are handled, how conversations unfold, how projects are managed.
Those silos we’ve erected between the everyday world of kids and the everyday world of adults needs to be more permeable. I’m not talking about making an antsy four-year-old sit through a long, intense meeting. What I am talking about is being intentional to allow our kids to see what business looks like, the time it takes, the experience. As I have the opportunity to work with such a broad cross-section of ages in my areas of work, I find that there are young adults trying to navigate the work world who have never been invited to observe it until their college days were over. It makes for a steep career onramp.
Not every work situation, not every boss, not every schedule is conducive to having one of your kids tag along. But when you have the opportunity to guide your child through your work world, to have them put stamps on mailers or to organize some files, the camaraderie and shared experience can be a powerful time in which they feel honored and invited into a part of your life they don’t often get to see. In this business of having kids, it can be a great gift to have the kids in the business.