A year ago I wrote about my 51 hour stint looking after my 13-week-old EBB (exclusively breastfed baby) grandson, Fraser, and introduced the strategic approach and guerrilla operations I deployed and some key leadership lessons he taught me.
Guerrilla (adj) referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorisation
(Oxford English Dictionary)…
To recap, a year ago my daughter was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding, which was scheduled to run over three days. She and her partner debated long and hard about taking the baby with them, but on balance we all decided he would be better off staying with his grandparents, with some external support provided by his auntie!
Fast forward a year, the happy couple are celebrating their first wedding anniversary and Fraser is now a 15-month fully-fledged toddler, getting, as they say, into everything! Leadership Lesson #1 from last year is still every bit as pertinent.
Leadership lesson #1: pull together a reliable team and play to individual team members’ strengths.
Since my own parenting experience over three decades ago, the rate of change has been exponential, with some guidelines feeling almost counter-intuitive. “Back to sleep”, feeding on demand, do NOT overheat the baby, to name but a few.
At the toddler stage, I feel on more familiar territory, and the addition of stair-gates, cupboard locks and removal of ornaments makes the house as safe as possible. Leadership Lesson #2 is still relevant, and I have discovered that stair-gates and safety features have benefited from 30 plus years of technological advance. Patience and tact together with Mr Tumble are also great at keeping things on an even keel.
Leadership lesson #2: keep up to date with the latest research, and make sure you implement best practice.
When we looked after him last year I wrote about a looming crisis as bags of frozen milk were consumed more frequently than anticipated, and a number of leaking bags reduced the supply considerably. Fortunately the introduction of solids at six months mean that his key priority now is food, food and more food.
Leadership Lesson #3 has been adapted from last year and my freezer now contains ready-made portions of mince and potatoes, lentils with sweet potato and spinach, macaroni cheese and rice pudding all ready to be re-heated at a moment’s notice.
Leadership lesson #3: the Deming Wheel (Plan Do Study Act) came into play here, as did an "After Action Review” when his parents returned.
Leadership lesson #4 from last year was the result of an unscheduled bath and change of clothes at 4 a.m. Happily those days are now behind us, but I always make sure we have a plentiful supply of nappies, bedding and changes of clothes etc. just in case.
Leadership lesson #4: ensure you have adequate supplies in reserve and can access services and facilities so that tasks can run smoothly in the event of unexpected events.
During my early parenting days, I discovered that routine was critical to keep baby and mother happy and healthy. Last year, when he was a mere 13 weeks, it was relatively easy to keep him contented, and he spent most of the time asleep. Fast forward a year and his little personality is now developing and he is able to communicate better.
If he is offered food that he doesn’t like, he can simply drop it on the floor or wave the spoon away. However, he is used to consistency around “dining” arrangements and knows the routine of bib and highchair before he can tuck in.
He takes great delight in wandering everywhere he can and being an adventurer and explorer, not realising he is being closely followed and watched by one of the grown-ups.
Leadership lesson #5: draw on your experience, skills and knowledge to successfully tackle new or unknown situations. Follow your instinct – it is rarely wrong.
So, what are my conclusions? Apart from the obvious joy and love of having a little person around, last year I was very conscious of the heavy responsibility which meant being constantly careful and vigilant. My daughter and her partner had placed complete trust in us to look after their precious little bundle.
One year on, I feel more confident and am quickly re-learning and remembering the delights of toddlers as they begin to interact with those around them.
The final leadership lesson from last year - trust - remains the key plank of grandparenting, and given the number of baby-sitting requests, we must still be doing something right.
And therein lies the final leadership lesson – trust must be earned.
Children have neither past nor future. They enjoy the present, which very few of us do.
Jean De La Bruyere
Take care. Lead well