About Me

My photo
It's important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail...for what is life if we only shared a mask?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bend without Breaking...lessons from children

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 this December, 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 daughter who went to a new middle school this fall went from familiar to unfamiliar with a manic schedule, new faces, a new bus route, more homework and new projects. She will experience change again in January when the first semester ends and another one starts with new electives. I am in awe of her resilience and her 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. Change becomes a hard wired, rigid process. 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 Maddie. 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 5 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 language or skill.

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”


  1. Interesting reading. Putting yourself in a youngster's shoes sure does bring about a change in perspective..

  2. Children live in the present...one of the reason's I loved reading Peter Pan.