Last night we had a bunch of fifth graders over for dinner. The table was loud and boisterous, with lots of joke-telling and talking over one another. Every girl wanted to be the center of attention. They are getting ready to go to middle school, so I guess they are already fighting for their place in the social hierarchy. They don’t know it yet, but it’s not the loudest, wittiest, or coolest who will ultimately prevail.
It’s the one who can adapt in the face of adversity.
I served dessert (a gooey brownie pudding cake with ice cream) and shooed them all outside.
Not five minutes later, the herd bounded back up the stairs. During a game of rainbow tag, one of the colors they were using fell down a deep hole and could not be retrieved. Everyone had an idea about how to get it out. All the ideas, including using a pair of kitchen tongs to reach into the hole, all came up short. The color was lost forever.
Or was it?
They could remove a color on the other side of the yard, so that the colors would still be evenly distributed on both sides of the yard.
They could come up with another option for the lost color. (We have a craft bin full of supplies!)
They could play a different version of tag. (Trust me, there are about 100 to choose from!)
Or they could continuing arguing and blaming one another for dropping the color down the hole!
My daughter wailed, “This is why I hate having a bunch of people over! No one listens! This isn’t fun!”
I used to think being creative and being good at art were the same thing. I thought all the people who could sing and dance and paint and draw got all the talent. It wasn’t until I became an adult and had to solve real world problems that I realized it’s not artistic ability but rather adaptability that contributes to genuine creativity. And creativity plus adaptability equals success. On the playground and in the boardroom.
“Adaptability,” I said calmly to my daughter. Her dark eyes bored into mine. She knew what I meant (because we’ve talked about this before). What could she do? She turned on her heels and walked back down the stairs.
All gifts must be cultivated, and creativity is no exception.
The girls at my house are leaders in their classrooms and on their sports teams. Their teachers love them. They help out with the younger kids, are often picked to spearhead service projects, and usually land extra privileges, like monitoring field day games, at the end of the year. When they all get together, however, everyone wants to be in charge. It can get a little chaotic. I’m a mom, not a referee. They’re not in preschool anymore. Pouting is not allowed. Instead, I want to teach them how to adapt when things don’t go their way.
Leadership isn’t about bossing people around, and creativity isn’t about being able to wield a crayon. They are learning how to do both in the context of play.
The girls stayed outside for two more hours. I don’t know if they continued their game of rainbow tag. But based on the way they looked when they came back inside, I’m guessing they found something to do with the remaining colors.
One bloody toe and a jammed bathroom door later, and everyone went home happy and tired.