Girls Leadership Institute

Last weekend my twin daughters and I spent the weekend at Grace Church School in the Village for the awesome Girls Leadership Institute.

I was surprised to learn that girls’ friendships are their whole world. Hearing about the scenarios of the other girls reinforced this. In our role playing, there were many examples of small snubs that deeply, deeply hurt — like not being invited to a party. It is tough to be a kid!

One of my takeaways from the weekend was learning four steps to navigate a conflict.

1. Affirm the relationship

2. Use an “I statement”

3. Admit your contribution

4. Solve it together

I am pathologically nice and avoid conflict at all costs. So this was good for me. I realized that I skate over step #1. And #3 too. Somehow I never fail to notice and feel the wrongs done to me, but I may not always see or feel my contribution to a conflict. (Me? Perfect ole me?)

I have to acknowledge that, “In 99% of arguments, both sides somehow contributed to the conflict…” That blew my mind. Everyone is always quick to blame others. But realizing that we each have a role in the conflict may make the solution more accessible.

At times, I felt a little strained in the workshop, because I was the only parent there with twins. The twelve or so other mothers all had just one daughter to intensely talk with or role play with. I was trying, as I always do, to be fair and distribute my attention equally. The facilitators were supportive and sometimes worked with one of the girls one-on-one, but I don’t think they were used to twins with one parent.

All in all, it was a totally excellent weekend. We learned a lot and we are already implementing it around the house (although their big brother is a bit dismissive (maybe he’s a little jealous?)) I think I need to affirm that relationship with my son, maybe even use an ‘I statement,’ admit my contribution, and then we can solve it together. That will be fun.

Happy Campers

I tagged along yesterday as an older and wiser camper took my daughter on a tour of her new sleep away camp. We visited the arts and crafts cabin, petted an old horse in the stable and walked to the archery range.

But the most happening stop on the tour was at the stage set. The crew was painting, building, finding props for the production of Charlotte’s Web. Or maybe it was The Ugly Duckling. I was only half listening to the tour guide, hypnotized as I was by the young women working.

The campers and counselors were totally in the zone, like bees building a hive. Each doing their own thing, but doing it for a greater good. Work can be like this — like parallel play; like, we are doing our own thing, but we are side by side. And it all comes together in the end.

When I taught drama to kids, I tried to teach them that the lead role in a show was a small piece in a much bigger puzzle. The real world and work of theater is about collaboration. There are box office managers, set designers, costumers, musicians, lighting engineers, a variety of skilled craftspeople.

Theater is about craft — not about celebrity. It is about being in community and building something even brighter than the brightest star. Theater is about snapping the jigsaw pieces together to create the production.

As our tour guide and my daughter drifted ahead, I dawdled. I wondered if parenting, which often feels like my work alone, is a collaborative project, like a theater production. And maybe this is why I like sending my kids to camp. Yes, they are the brightest stars in my personal production. But they are, like all of us, workers on a set in a production even larger than I understand. They are co-creators of a new show. And I have to let them go.

As parents and as campers, we play our bit parts. We help build the set.