Daddy Talk: What Do You Do at Work?
I was reading a book recently, in which the author was speaking of the importance of a boy knowing what his father did for work. In the old days, apparently, this was quite simple. The boy could walk outside and observe his father hacking away in the fields, or slicing lumber, or building furniture. Nowadays, it’s a bit tougher because most of us have office jobs where what you would observe is us sitting at a desk all day staring at computer monitors and because many of us have jobs that you couldn’t describe simply in a single sentence (what does a “senior data analyst” do?) and because kids have compulsory school attendance anyway. When would they even have time to come watch you stare at your screen?
These thoughts were in the back of my brain when I volunteered to take one of my boys with me to work a few weeks ago. It was a day that I knew would be kind of slow for me, and Isaac was getting over being sick but didn’t look quite ready to go back to school. Since I work on a college campus, I planned on letting him do some of his own activities in my office and then taking him on some walking breaks at intervals.
As I booted up my office computer, I asked him if he wanted to see what I do when I get to work. He excitedly said, “Yes!” and I knew the author of that book I had read would be proud. I logged in and opened my e-mail: “See? This person sent me a message. Now, I’m going to answer that person by writing a message back.” After approximately six seconds of this, Isaac was no longer interested and went off to play with Hot Wheels. I was glad I had tried to show him something of what I do but still felt a bit inferior as I muttered something about how I should have been a farmer.
After about twenty minutes of being in my office, he asked me how long we had been there. I answered and then reminded him that we would have to be there about seven hours more. His eyes got as big as Frisbees, and he collapsed on the side of the couch in the reception area. I told him if he could wait just a bit longer, we could take a walk together on campus.
Our first destination was the campus art gallery, which had an exhibit of really large photographs with eccentric subject matter involving bones and dying things. Isaac seemed to get a kick out of the photos, but when he noticed that many of the pieces had pricetags underneath, those numbers received the bulk of his attention from then on: “Dad! Look how much this one costs! You don’t even have that much money!” “That’s right,” I would say, hoping no students had walked in behind us.
We took another walk later on to the campus’s main courtyard where there were some festivities going on—“spring fever” or something like it, with people dressed in Hawaiian luau garb. I talked Isaac into getting into the snow cone line even though he was frightened by how big the other “kids” were. It made his day when the server treated him like one of the college students.
So the idea of “showing Isaac” what I do at work didn’t turn out like I expected. He did end up seeing some work-related tasks and interactions, but maybe also important, especially for a six-year old is that he could see the place with his own eyes. Trace the paths of the sidewalks and the buildings. Catch a sense of the spirit of the place. Observe the serious and the silly. See what kind of attitude is healthy there. And notice that it is important to enjoy yourself while you’re getting things done at work.
Tim Krason lives in Clinton with his family. He teaches English at Hinds Community College in Raymond.