Sunday, April 25, 2010

a kid at work

Would everyone please take a seat and settle down?
Thank you.

The subject for this week’s discussion is kids at work, a situation that many of us have, or will have, to face, prompted by this week’s Take Your Kid to Work Day.

This may seem an odd subject of concern for someone my age, but life can play tricks on you. Some years ago, a date with my favorite 3-year-old collided head-on with a work deadline. Forced into the workplace for a stressful few hours, I had little choice but to take the tyke along.

Having left behind my full-time duties at the newspaper, my “day job” took me to a conservative law firm several days a week. Unlike the open informality of a newsroom, this was a true corporate atmosphere. There was no dress-down day. (However, there were free bagels on Fridays.)

How, I mused, was I going to pull this off?

First the preparation. The night before, I picked up two new animated videos, an “Aladdin” coloring book and a “Lion King” book of stickers. That morning, I packed a bottle of his favorite apple juice, a plastic bag with his choice of dry cereal, a few chosen toys and a complete change of clothes – just in case.

As we got him dressed, I talked up the place, explaining what an adventure it would be (OK, so I stretched things a bit), how we would ride an elevator to the top floor and so on. I went so far
as to promise all kinds of special treats afterward if he was a good boy.

On the way over, he chattered endlessly about the “elebator,” likening it to a Ferris wheel ride. We got off to a fine start; he was impressed the parking garage: “It’s sooo dark.” He pressed the “elebator” button and watched the floor numbers come and
go with open fascination.

I must tell you that in my (very biased) opinion, this is one extremely adorable, outgoing and quick youngster who is used to a warm reception whenever he ventures out into the adult world. My office was no exception. Faces lighted up when we walked by, and necks craned around corners at the sound of his voice. Unfortunately, he was in his unsociable mode and “harrumphed” at those who tried to engage him in conversation. Eventually, he
did willingly march off with a smiling staffer who
offered him Tootsie Pop.

The main problem was keeping him in my small, windowless office. I closed the door, set up the video, etc. After about 15 minutes, he declared: “let’s get outta here.” Not a bad suggestion; unfortunately, not a practical one. When I explained I had more work to do, he demanded more rides on the “elebator.”

Between elevator rides, he sat on my lap munching Fruit Loops as the “Land Before Time IV” played on. All the while, I answered the phone, studied photo contact sheets with a magnifying glass and managed to punch out a Simba sticker or two.

Then came his discovery of my laptop, which I had naively switched on. As computer literate as they come, my little pal focused on the machine. He attempted to negotiate the touchpoint in the middle of the keyboard, which takes much more finesse than the mouse with which he’s adept. But he managed quite well within 10 minutes.

Considering all the extra effort and distraction, I still believe kids can be an addition to almost any workplace. It isn’t the children per se, but the lack of facilities that get in the way. I wish kids could
be more integrated into the workplace without the expense of formal on-site day care, perhaps with a friendly room close by – like on each floor.

Children add humanity and perspective to life, cutting adults and their pretensions down to size. Who else could abruptly put an end to a terse conference by announcing with some urgency: “I hafta go potty!”

1 comment:

dianenat said...

time flies...and companies now cater to the kids!
Stephen and Sarah got to spend the day with Dad at Verizon last week where the company had the whole day planned to entertain and cater the kids!