Saturday, March 30, 2013

Beyond Imagination

So. DI season is over.

That was fun.

No, really. It was better than fun. Despite all my rantings and ravings - with the kids, and afterwards to my Hubby - and all the wine I necessarily consumed post-meetings - I really, truly, honestly enjoyed this time as a Team Manager for Sweetie's team.

I thought it would be a few months of supervising kids as they planned out and created their solution to a Team Challenge on which they agreed upon focusing their time. Throw in some Instant Challenges I'd have to come up with, somehow, for them to solve on the spot, and that was pretty much all I'd have to do. This collecting of Instant Challenges, in fact, I figured would be the toughest part of my responsibilities. Where the heck do you find Instant Challenges, anyway? (I quickly found out, and it wasn't really an issue after all.) At any rate, DI is all about the kids working out solutions. Parents, managers and any other adults are expressly warned that they are to be completely hands off. Cool. Like I said, I'd sit and supervise. No prob.

How quickly did I learn that I'd be doing oh so much more than "just supervising"? Oh, I'd say within the first 30 seconds of our first meeting. No. Earlier than that. Preparing for that first meeting. But in actual time with the kids? Pretty much immediately.

And not just me doing more (Mediator. Guidance Counselor. Teacher. Nurse. Organizer. Etc., etc., etc....) than I thought I would. But me learning more than I ever thought I would. Who would have thought that this small team of 3 could ever show me so much about myself and the world around me, while working on a project that's designed to show them how much they really know for themselves?

Things I learned - or at least were reminded of - from Destination Imagination:

- 3 kids is not an easily manageable number. One always feels left out. It will change, as to who feels like he or she is being left out. But one always does. Decision-making can be nearly impossible.

- I can keep my nose out of things fairly well. I was concerned, going into this, that I'd want to be too controlling - too in-control. But, all in all, I feel I was pretty darn successful at letting the kids plan out their solution on their own (as I was supposed to do.) I saw as they went along where things, I knew, would eventually fall apart for them. But allowing them to buy/gather/produce/try whatever they wanted in order for them to get to that place where they saw for themselves that things weren't going to go as they envisioned came easier to me than I expected it would.

- Sometimes - heck, a lot of times - they really surprised me by going through with their plans that I "knew" would fail and ending up with some totally awesome and completely successful workable solutions. Wow! I would have never thought in a million years that would work out the way it did.

- Making assumptions really can hold you back.

- Failing is not only okay, but encouraged. You didn't do it right this time? Okay. Do it again. Do it better. What did you learn? Maybe something else you never even thought of is now on the table to explore further. Fail spectacularly and try again. Go!

- Take a breath before speaking. See if others have ideas. Collaborate. Work together on a communal solution, not together on 1 member's idea. The more involved every member feels, the better they'll all feel about the final solution, or why the answer they tried to achieve didn't really work in the end.

- Celebrate "weirdness." Some pretty cool things come out of some pretty weird ideas.

- Coming together as a group is key. Absolutely. When one member is just "done" with the whole experience, the whole group is done. But not lost! Find a way to reconnect, refocus, and get back on track. You can do it!

- Sometimes a person just doesn't want to hear it. Doesn't want to be helped. Won't allow you to be "let in." Not in the moment, anyway. People need time to process mistakes. Even if those mistakes are only self-perceived. They just need some time...

- ... But they'll come around. Sooner or later, they always do.

- "Only children" vs. "the youngest in a family." Oh what a difference, maturity-level wise.

- My kid is a confident, mean power driller. Who knew?!

- The bestest of friends can bicker the most. Of course they do! They feel comfortable enough with each other to know that they can express their frustrations and displeasures, but still be great friends when it's done.

- Sending a simple email to check in on a kid who you can tell had a long, rough day of stress and injury can do a world of good for that kid - and yourself. They will know that you have their back, are concerned for them, and think they are pretty great stuff. Because they are.

- Making a kid do something they absolutely, unequivocally do NOT want to do can, in the end, show them that they not only can do it, but can do it really well and will actually have fun while doing it!

- I can grab ahold of a situation, stop the chaos, and calm things down. I can command attention. I can ease tension. I can make others see when things are not that big of a deal or, conversely, when things are much more important than they think they are. I can keep people on track. I can do a lot more than I think I can, while allowing others to see that they can too.

- It stabs a little to know you most likely "lost" a kid. No more DI for them. At least, that's how they feel now. We'll see. (Heck, I don't even know if I want to do it again!)

- It's worth it all to know that the kid who passionately stated they would absolutely, positively never do DI again and could not wait until it was all over, actually ended up enjoying Regionals and would consider another go at it next year. Even if they don't - wow. What a turn around!

- It doesn't matter whether you win or lose. It's whether or not you showed up and did your best. One team member who I thought "got this" saw one of their competitors after their own performance and felt sadly defeated. "We didn't win. They were better than us!" As opposed to the team member who is painfully shy and afraid to fail seeing the same performance and declaring, simply and honestly, "Wow! They were really good!" Kids. You never can tell. They will surprise you every time.

- Everything will be okay in the end. Every time. Not to worry. It's not your problem.

- Kids are amazing, creative, smart and just plain awesome.  They can do oh so much more than we think they can. Allow them to think and do and try and try again. What an amazing gift to give to our children.

And perhaps the biggest lesson I learned? Being a DI Team Manager is like giving birth to a child. In the heat of it, it hurts. A lot! You can't imagine why you got yourself into this mess in the first place. You'll never do this again! You just want it all to be over. But when it is? Eh. That wasn't so bad. And look at what you have to show for it? Something really beautiful. I want some more of this in my life...

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