Teachable Moments Come Whether Parents Are Around or Not

Will Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, or her high-powered husband, Zach Bogue, see their new baby’s first smile, or his first step? Or, will they be working or out of town on business?

“Look around, Michael!” My dad grabbed me by the shoulders forcefully and stared into my eyes. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Look!”

I’m sure he had tried that many times before, but for some reason, this time, I was ready to really think about what he was saying. I scanned the room, and then looked back at him. “You’re right,” I replied.

I turned around and went back to my bedroom, and I was never afraid of the dark again.

What’s most interesting to me about that episode is that, while it’s extremely memorable to me, it wasn’t to my dad. In other words, it was a “teachable moment” for me that no one could have predicted.

What if my dad was away on a business trip that night? If only my mom had been home, I don’t think she would have snapped me out of my fear. My dad was the “tough love” force in my life. Or if both of my parents were away and I was staying with my aunt or grandma, I probably wouldn’t have woken her up at all. I would have just stayed in bed, frozen in fear, for an hour or more.

You see, kids don’t sit around waiting for us parents to come home. They’re thinking and growing every minute of every day. Teachable moments pop up for them sporadically. If we’re not there, they miss out, and we do, too. That’s all there is to it.

Why do I tell this story on a blog about children’s play in neighborhoods? Well, lots of parents ask me, “How can I have a Playborhood in my neighborhood when my spouse and I work so much?”

My answer is always, “How about evenings and weekends?”

“Well, they have baseball and dancing and karate and . . .”

I zone out at this point. If you think you can be a good influence on your kids, you need to pass quality time with them. Period.

Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, has recently made headlines because she took this extremely demanding job even though she’s three months pregnant. She’s going to take three weeks off for the childbirth, and even work some during that time. Of course, when she returns to work, she’ll probably leave home early in the morning and return late at night. She’ll undoubtedly take business trips here and there.

Mayer’s husband, Zach Bogue, isn’t CEO of a public company, but he also has a busy career as managing partner of two venture capital-related companies, Founders Den and Data Collective.

So, Mayer and Bogue’s baby boy won’t be waiting around for them to come home to crack his first smile or take his first step. He’ll probably experience dozens of amazing moments like these in the presence of hired caregivers who will walk out the revolving door in a year or two.

Yes, I can understand how parents could put this much priority on their careers. After all, millions of parents do it, including many of my friends.

However, Mayer and Bogue, and all those of us who watch them, must accept that their time is a zero-sum resource, and they’re allocating way more of it to their jobs than to their son.

I don’t know about you, but I were that kid, I’d rather have a couple of boring parents who stay at home with me a lot and walk me around the neighborhood…

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