I spent the past weekend attending yet another social media conference. This time, it was the Digital Family Summit right here in my newly adopted hometown of Baltimore. The difference was that this was a family conference geared towards parents and their tweens and teens active in social media.
So I, of course, brought my 6 year old son, Evan, with me. I knew it would be a bit of a stretch for him but I figured there would be younger kids there and he is pretty bright.
We attended a few sessions and parties together and then his attention span waned. BIG TIME. So I took him home and returned to the conference and after a full weekend, I learned some valuable lessons.
I talk too much. I knew this anyway but our first exercise was a meet and greet where we had to spend a few minutes talking to someone else and creating “tags” about them. I talked mainly to kids, about myself, and they ended up tagging me as such:
You know what I have to say to that? BORING. In a few minutes, people only got factual information from me because that’s what I offered up. Except for the friendly part. Sometimes I need to shut up more and let the silences invoke conversations from others.
Kids sometimes have a hard time just being kids.
Kids have a limited attention span for speakers. I get that. I have a limited attention span for speakers. But Evan started getting restless which devolved into whining about when we could actually go. I convinced him to stay until the evening party where we got to make our own ice cream sundaes and do a little karaoke.
Much to his chagrin, I insisted on getting my hands on a microphone and belted out a horrific rendition of the Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” I had fun singing it even if only three of us in the room knew the song.
And then finally, before we left, I asked him to get a little goofy with me for a photo. He balked and then finally agreed once he decided he was going to keep his face out of the shot.
I need to be a better parent. Nobody told me this and there certainly wasn’t a session entitled “How You’re Failing Your Child” but spending time with Evan in a setting that made him uncomfortable made him quite unbearable. He is happiest when he is at home getting his own way and doing exactly what he wants. And so often, I arrange my life around his moods.
Yeah, I know. I thought I was better at this parenting thing than that. So I’m working on it.
I did take him home halfway through Saturday (after the Video Game Design session which he LOVED) and the conference got whole lot better for me after that.
I don’t plan to ever run a marathon. Yes, I actually learned this at the conference.
Saturday also happened to be the day of the Baltimore Marathon, which was also called the Baltimore Running Festival. The hotel was situation right next to the finish line at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play. From our second floor conference view, we got to see the runners on their last leg. We saw the crowds cheering them on and families holding signs. We saw lean bodies in a final sprint for the finish. Throughout the day, we saw runners proudly wearing their medals and I was genuinely happy for them.
A few hours later, though, we had finished lunch, had a break in our day, and I decided that I’d take Evan home. We walked outside and saw this scene.
There were still plenty of marathoners. I’d like to call them runners but that wasn’t really what they were doing. This group was older, larger, and considerably slower. Some were doing a jog-walk. Others were just plain old walking. The crowds had nearly vanished. There were no signs. And the looks on their faces told me the rush of endorphins wasn’t really doing it for them anymore.
I let out a few cheers along with a local in a wheelchair who seemed to be there simply to tell each individual THEY COULD DO IT! They were ALMOST THERE! Keep it up!
I’m glad he was there for them but it was in that moment that I knew I’d never run a marathon. This would be my crowd. This is how I would finish. And although there would be a sense of personal accomplishment, my experience would be the same as those who had crossed the finish line hours earlier.
So my final lesson was one of personal reflection. I need to train to be good at what I do. I need to practice. And I need to be ahead of the crowds or else be satisfied with the few people left that are cheering me on.
I’ll be simplifying some things in next few weeks so that I can better focus on the things I really want to do. It won’t be a marathon but maybe someday I’ll do that 5k fun run.