While participating in the creation of videos as a corporate communications professional, I learned how to write and deliver polished lead-ins. It was one of many skills that I wanted to help my children to develop, and I looked for opportunities to share my knowledge “for their good.”
When an opportunity presented itself during a family vacation to San Diego, I learned a valuable lesson regarding the potential pitfalls of parental expectations. It’s a fitting topic to share on Father’s Day—and is even more poignant for me because my wife and daughter were the ones who recently shared their perspective of the experience with me.
During that week-long trip, my 12-year-old son, Kevin, and 10-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, showed a great deal of interest in using the family’s new Sony Handycam digital video camera to record portions of the vacation from their perspectives. Other than when I cautioned them not to dangle the video camera outside of whatever vehicle we were sitting in while they shot video segments, I thought I gave them great freedom to enjoy the experience of videotaping our vacation moments.
That was until I reviewed their first recordings. Their rapid camera movement during shots of the San Diego Zoo made me more nauseous than any live carnival ride I had ever taken. Their stopping and starting recordings of people mid-sentence and thought caused flashbacks of my past drunken revelry and long-forgotten, very forgettable and regrettable, barroom conversations.
“They can do better than this,” I thought. “All it will take is a little coaching.”
Then I had an amazing idea. Why not turn this haphazard video recording into a family vacation video project? That would bring much-needed focus to our recording efforts—and give me the chance to showcase my talent as a communication coach and video “expert.” Oh yeah, and the kids will love it!
Surprisingly, Kim and the kids were much less excited about the family video project than I expected. Well, all I needed to do was to get one of the kids involved, and the rest of the dominoes would fall quickly into place, right?
My immediate choice was to work with Caitlyn on what would be the video intro. Caitlyn was a natural who enjoyed being videotaped and had a good, natural presence on camera. She was her communication daddy’s little girl!
Well, she was no “one-take wonder,” and I was a less-than-encouraging coach. She started pretty well on her first take: “Welcome to SeaWorld. I’m going to take you…I’m going to take you on a tour today.”
‘OK, a slight flub,” I thought. “We could take it out in post-production, but why not have her get it right now?” I kept the camera recording as I said, “Ok start again and say, ‘Hi I’m Caitlyn Keefe’ and then say what you said just now. Look right at the camera.”
Appearing slightly annoyed, but still game, Caitlyn started Take Two: “Hi, I’m Caitlyn Keefe and we’re at SeaWorld, and I’m going to be your tourist.” “CUT!” I nearly yelled, but instead said, “Tour guide, Caitlyn. Two words.”
My voice tried to hide my frustration, as I said, “Do it again now, real good, all together now. Look at the camera while you’re doing it. With a smile!”“Hi, I’m Caitlyn Keefe and I’m going to be your tour guide, and we are in California, San Diego, and I’m going to show you around SeaWorld.” I panned away to show the entrance, then back to Caitlyn. I fed her the next line: “So let’s get started.”
“So, let’s get started,” Caitlyn said with a smile while she spread her arms wide at her side. It either was a pose of excitement or resignation—I still can’t be sure.
Caitlyn, Kim and I recently watched this video. Caitlyn’s comment afterward: “Well, now I guess we know why I never became an actress—I thought I wasn’t good enough!” Although she was half-joking, Caitlyn and her mom have continued to bring up the “coaching session”; so I know it did bother them.
That is the lesson that I want to share on this Father’s Day. We have such a short window of time to be the primary teachers of our children. Our ability to help guide them and support them quickly becomes contingent on our relationship with them.
The Christian bible states, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.” It is wise advice that can keep the all-important parent-child relationship open. We cannot communicate to loved ones if they close their ears to us.
In recent years, I’ve made efforts to hold my tongue so that one of my children can share something with me. When I do that well, I gain important insights into their world, their struggles, and their concerns.
That hasn’t always been easy for me and my controlling personality. On this Father’s Day, I’m glad that I can call “Cut!” on myself and give myself another take in the action adventure that I call, life.