Like so many of you, I wear all sorts of hats in my current work. But very basically, my team and I welcome professionals, executives to our building (and virtually too) and help to facilitate their learning with the Kelley School of Business faculty. We are the liaison between the group of students and the faculty. I handle logistics, contracting, operations and foster relationships with clients, vendors, faculty, staff and students. I can be like the lunch lady serving meals to students and write a contract in the same day. I interview and hire our new team members and also hand out parking passes and coffee or take group photos. I love what I do. I feel as though I have never been busier in my life and most days, especially in the summer months, I am pulled in many different directions, to put it lightly.
This week we have a very special Aviation client visiting and they are doing a unique, customized marketing program. I wrote and signed our contract with them 6 months ago. Some time between now and then I received a note home in Hunter’s backpack that the kindergarten awards ceremony is May 21st at 9 AM. Honestly, at first, I just put it aside. The Aviation group is in house that week, it’s the week after our absolute busiest week of the year, there’s 70 of them, we are going to be so busy. That was it. Now, I also, at the time, did not realize the importance of this awards ceremony either. We are new to the school obviously as we have a kindergartner. No one told me that THIS is the ceremony of the year where all kids are recognized for their individual achievements. They all receive medals and certificates. It is a big deal. I didn’t know.
I missed the deadline for the form. Hunter’s teacher had to remind me. Among so many talents, she is also a saint. I submitted my and Josh’s name finally (a day late) and made a commitment to be there. Once my boss knew I had the Kindergarten Awards ceremony that morning, he would not allow me to miss it. No question. I asked my colleagues to fill in for me that super busy morning when my out of town group was first entering their classroom here on campus.
So, last night, was the opening reception and dinner, held on campus, for this Aviation group. We had a Jacob’s School of Music pianist, we had a PPT presentation with fun facts about our school and campus, we had a hosted bar, salad, duet entrée dinner and desserts. I facilitated registration and gave gifts along with nametags to everyone. And to be 100% honest, going into this event, I wasn’t super thrilled. We just finished a crazy busy week which ran right into this week. I have had 7 evening receptions and commitments within these 2 weeks. Between us, the meeting planner in me was a little nervous too, because of their many last minute requests and changes. As the dinner concluded, the faculty asked me to brief the group on logistics for tomorrow- where to go, how to get there, what to expect, and so on. It would be their first time walking across campus to our building, the Kelley School, and finding their classroom.
As I concluded my brief but super detailed speech, I let them know that my colleagues would be there to greet them and that I would actually not be there because I had a kindergarten awards ceremony. I just met this group of 70 professionals. I didn’t mean to say that was where I was going to be specifically, but there at the podium behind the microphone, in front of the group, it just came out. I wouldn’t want them to think that I didn’t value them, as our very important client. Just as those words fell out of my mouth, the super warm and friendly group of managers and executives followed with an “Aww” and a round of applause. I was shocked. How amazing, I thought. What a family oriented organization they must be. They totally get it and I was relieved.
Now, my colleagues are wonderful and we do this sort of things for each other all of the time. It is amazing actually to work with such a great, small and mighty team who 100% respect and support one another. It was my honor to fill in for my colleague so that she could drive her son to his interview for the prestigious University honor’s scholarship. She was happy to help my group here this morning so that I could go to Kindergarten Awards.
The Awards Ceremony
I couldn’t have been prepared for this emotional morning. I listened intently to all of their names and each of their own individual achievements and recognition. I couldn’t help but to think that these little 5 and 6 year olds are all so special in their own way and that they have all come so far, and learned so much this year, thanks to their teachers, their leadership and that wonderful building full of support and love for these children. I thought back on all of the milestones this past year for Hunter and I also thought a lot about the obstacles that so many of these kids must face each day or at some point in their kindergarten life.
For example, Hunter just told me last weekend that one boy in his class has been living with his grandparents for “10 weeks” because his parents are living with his sick newborn baby sibling in the hospital. Oh my goodness. You never know what others are facing. But here they are, 8 classes of 160+ kindergartners, so proud to get a Medal hung around their neck for excellence in a particular subject area and a special Certificate highlighting their “lifeline” (integrity, sense of humor, friendship, organization, caring and so forth).
And to end the morning, Hunter’s teacher had all of us parents come to her classroom quickly to watch a video that she had specially prepared at home for all of us. It was a slideshow of each of our children and photos of them on the first day of school alongside a recent photo- my how they all have grown. She even included photos of all of their fun activities, class trips, holidays and class time over the past 9 months. I am just a crying mess through all of this. And to think that I could have missed this?!? What a special morning it was. I honestly don’t know what could possibly be more important? I am most certainly not a crier but I can say that I have not cried like this since we sent him to kindergarten.
And as I returned to work, I bet at least 15 different people from this Aviation group asked me how the awards ceremony went. One woman specifically pulled me aside and thanked me. She had saught me out. She looked at me in the eye, very seriously, and wanted me to know how much she really appreciated my honesty in front of the whole group last night. Speaking mother to mother, she knew that I could very easily just brush over the fact that I was missing work to go to my son’s school, just as I intended to do. But she wanted me to know that she loved that I was honest and mostly she wanted to thank me for choosing to go to the awards ceremony over their first morning there in session. She went on to say that I could have easily chosen to go to work instead but she was grateful that I didn’t. I told her that I honestly almost did choose work over the ceremony because I knew how important this day was for them, my clients. And thankfully I didn’t.
What she helped me to realize was that speaking in front of the group, behind the podium, I was setting an example, taking a stand for all of those working Moms in the audience. All of the working Moms who have to make the same hard choices in their career, and somehow carefully balance work and their family. I was so supported by this woman, the group and my colleagues, for that little moment, it honestly felt like one giant leap for Working Moms.
Moms, Dads, parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers- we are all pulled in so many directions every day. I am so glad and feel so lucky to be able to prioritize my family and work in a place where it isn’t only accepted but that it is actually respected to put my family first. Josh and I will never get this morning back where our first born proudly received a science and organization award from his first teacher in his first year of school. My only hope is that all of us, that you too, are supported and are able to balance work and all that is going on in your life with your family and particularly our young and growing children. It is not always easy. We need that support.
As his principal put it during the awards ceremony, in the blink of an eye, these little kindergartners are going to be seniors in high school graduating and getting ready for their next journey in life.