“What do you call a fake noodle? — An Impasta”
“What do you call a cow with no legs? — Ground Beef”
“What do you call a magic owl? —Hooodini”
Phone call jokes from Danny (10)
This is a tale of untold joys — neatly squared away down to 7 dotted bullets.
It all started last summer. I was dating this girl who couldn’t stop raving about this kid-coaching program called Future Possibilities For Kids. At the time, kids were foreign to me — a miniaturized human mystery of endless energy and responsibility. As a busy working professional in downtown Toronto, kids just didn’t cross my path very often. I used to live behind an elementary school with my home office facing the schoolyard. The sound of recess bells and screaming little ones became an office ambience mainstay. That’s about as close as I came to kids before being introduced to Future Possibilities For Kids. Aside from being completely woo’ed by the girl, my little bro had recently gotten married and my two long-time buds from back home had recently had new borns. I knew kids wouldn’t be a mystery for much longer. The pathway to crayons, tea parties, grass stains, lame knock-knock jokes and untold joys.. was approaching quickly. So I decided to put comfort by the wayside and dive in with the hopes of getting better with kids. Little did I know I was about to get better with being a grown up too. A lot better.
I signed up to be a Kid Coach with FPK. And got matched up with the little 10-year old goofball standing in the picture next to me named Danny.
Dot 1. You will realize how far inside the box you’ve traveled.
We’ve all heard the term, “thinking outside the box.” As a creative professional, I like to think I’m better at it than most.. especially grown ups, but it when it comes to kids, I don’t stand a chance. At FPK Orientation, us grown ups were challenged to come up with as many uses of a clothes hanger we could think of in 2 minutes. I won — with an impressive 18. At least I thought it was impressive, until I found out what the kid winner had… OVER 40.
In the most watched TED talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson makes a fantastic case that our school systems kill creativity, and proposes some changes to keep kids thinking outside the box. Young kids are free thinkers, absent the “creative buzz kill” about to take hold of them over the coming years in the classroom. As a grown up, being a Kid Coach helped me realize the importance of embracing and working on my creative side. And for those who relate more to excel spreadsheets than a blank paint canvas, be encouraged — Thomas Edison’s famous, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” quote is most often associated with perseverance — but have you ever thought what kind of creativity it took to come up with 10,000 different approaches to inventing the lightbulb? Last I checked, Thomas Edison wasn’t a very good painter, but creativity played an central role in the invention of the lightbulb. Creativity has a welcome home almost anywhere, in any discipline.
Kid Coaching requires you to be creative in your approach, as you guide your kid towards their own discovery of a community-contribution goal and action plans to achieve it.
Dot 2. You will get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I’m sure many of us have seen that meme with a circle around the words “Your comfort zone” and than a dot outside the circle labeled “Where the magic happens.” Kids will make you uncomfortable. Even if you think you’re used to kids, they’ll find a way. Why? Mostly because they haven’t developed the social sensitivities or fears that we grown-ups have, mix that with a relentless curiosity and fascination with grown ups and you’re bound to find yourself in moments of wide-eyed anxiety.
I’ll never forget the Easter dinner with my ex. It was her first time meeting my extended family, which included my little cousins. We’re sitting across the Easter dinner table and during a quick quiet break from the usual bantering, my second youngest cousin blurts out “Are you guys gunna get mawied soon?”
Being an Kid Coach will help you come to terms with being uncomfortable. And that’s going to do you wonders in your grown up life. There’s lots of magic to be discovered out there, so get uncomfortable and go find it!
Dot 3. You will learn to shut up and listen more.. and better.
As an FPK Coach, you learn and practise this thing called “global listening” — which entails listening to your kid’s words and emotions, while at the same time being aware of your words and emotions. This interpersonal skill is a lost art in my books. One of which is called Reclaiming Conversation – The Art Of Talk In A Digital Age by author Sherry Turkle. She makes the case that our unhealthy dependance in mobile devices has dwindled our capacity for empathy. Being a Kid Coach requires you to shut up and practise having quality (no-cell-phones-allowed) conversations with your kid. I dare you to call someone you’ve lost touch with and practise the same thing – you’d be amazed at what quality conversations do to the quality of your personal and professional relationships.
Dot 4. You will forget about all of your crappy grown up problems.
An added byproduct of being completely focused on your kid for a phone call each week, is that you let go of all your crappy grown up problems and just listen to the budding energetic, dream-filled voice on the line. My calls with Danny represented a break from the pressures of everyday grown up life.
Dot 5. You might fall in love.. or at least make some new friends.
I’m currently interviewing single people of all ages about modern love and dating. Its research for a dating app I’m thinking of creating with my housemate, who’s a crazy brilliant big data scientist. One of the overwhelming themes so far is just how hard it is to meet people after graduating. There just isn’t many offline opportunities to meet people naturally. Especially quality, good-hearted people that are worth pursuing long term. FPK is the best of both world’s in this regard. You get joined up with 8-10 other Kid Coaches as part of a crew. You’re all working through similar challenges and experiencing similar joys as you progress through the Kid Coaching journey together. There’s also crew socials and team building workshops — ample opportunity to meet the love of your life, or a new friend or two.
Dot 6. People will just plain like you more.
Yup. As a Kid Coach you’ll get more popular among your personal and professional peers. You’ll be armed with funny jokes to tell from your kid, great stories, and just be an overall more like-able grown up to be around.
Dot 7. You will discover the power of possibility thinking.
Every single Wed at 5pm, I’d pick up the phone and dial Danny’s number. I don’t think it every rang more then once before my phone speaker was crackling with an exuberant “HELLO!!?” — Danny is a rock star — activity binder open, pencil in hand, eagerly waiting to rip through the day’s activity. Then one Wed at 5pm, midway through the program, Danny didn’t answer. I tried calling the next day, to no avail. The following week, I finally got a hold of him. He was so apologetic for missing last week’s call. It turns out he was in the hospital. Danny’s dad passed away suddenly due to fluid in the lungs. Hearing this news sunk my heart to unfamiliar depths.
But I was quickly pulled back up to the surface. “Don’t worry Chadd, its ok! I’m going to achieve my goal. I’m going work hard for my mom and get good grades. I’m going to stay strong.” Danny powered through two activities that night and stayed remarkably upbeat. Ironically, we were working through sections of the book that talked about dealing with obstacles and never giving up. Danny helped me that night, discover the power of possibility thinking. Instead of complaining about this major life obstacle he was experiencing, he kept focused on all of the possible things he could do to come out on top. At the young age of 10, Danny is championing possibility thinking in ways I can only hope to achieve as a grown up.
You can’t make this stuff up folks. Kid Coaching is a powerful, soul-shifting experience. Untold joys await. If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your grown up life, Future Possibilities For Kids is a great way to getter’ dun. Oh and you also get a free blue t-shirt and endless slices of room-temp pizza.
And who doesn’t like free room-temp pizza?