This past week I babysat two little ladies, ages almost 4 and almost 2. It had been a rainy day full of head colds and broken Barbies, and all three of us were feeling the strain. Finally settling the two mademoiselles at their pint-sized table with some tempting snacks and coloring pages, I ran to the bathroom to clean up after our attempt at potty training. Exactly 60 seconds into my departure I heard glass-shattering shrieks echoing from the living room. I ran back, expecting a crayon jammed up someone’s nose or a bloody lip at the least. What I found were the two little darlings planted firmly in their chairs, sticky hands clamped on opposite sides of the toddler table, each trying to yank the table an inch closer to themselves.
I took a deep breath. And in a low, stern-but-gentle voice, (the kind of voice I utilize in certain student conduct meetings,) I told the girls to let go of the table and each scoot their chairs closer to the table. The mutinous expressions melted slowly as they maneuvered their chairs to a more comfortable proximity to their goldfish crackers and construction paper, and in a moment of blinding light, I realized that these little ladies were beginning to understand a concept that still eludes many professionals ten times their age.
How many times have we sat in meetings with other departments, (or *gasp*, our own department,) and desperately tried to yank that toddler table a little closer to ourselves? “If we are sponsoring the Open House and 60% of the cost will come out of our budget, then it should be hosted in the conference room closest to our office!” “*Insert department name* has to get their act together and recognize that our programming schedule is fixed, and if they want to partner with us on this project they will have to rearrange their plans”. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Each person tugging with sticky fingers at the (hopefully metaphoric) toddler table between us and the next person, insisting that our place in the world is static, and it is up to the next person to sit farther away from the table in order to meet our needs.
Maybe we need to include more juice and crackers at these meetings, or maybe we just need to relearn a lesson every toddler has to experience first-hand. Excruciating as the truth may be, the universe does not revolve around our needs, wants, and opinions. In order to foster a healthy campus system, collaboration and compromise need to be both expectation and reality. Even when we feel like there aren’t enough crayons to go around. Even when we feel like the other person/department/administrator is in desperate need of some student affairs “potty training”. Even when we feel inconvenienced.
Let’s work on meeting in the middle, folks. The view is wider and the snacks are infinitely better. Just ask two little girls sitting at a toddler table…
> BONUS <
Podcast With Brittany Duron on Geeks & Nerds on Campus