Nov 19, 2010

Coaching My Dad

Summary: My favorite client is the one I'm working with right NOW—whenever now may be. Despite that, here's one story that will live in my heart forever (and that I simply have to share with you). This is how I coached my dad ....

I'm a lucky woman: I've got a wonderful father who's always been a very involved part of my life from childhood through my present adult years. He has been a role model not only to me, my sisters and other members of our family, but he's also someone that people in our small community (the town in Indiana where I grew up) have looked up to all my life. As a grown-up now, I can see why.

Dad is consistent in his beliefs and in his actions. He's very friendly and tries his best to welcome others. And he just plain likes to have fun. Diplomatic, protective, open-minded and open-hearted: These are a few other words that come to mind to describe him.

Imagine how honored I was to be able to give something back to someone like this. It's an experience I had relatively recently, and one I know I'll always remember and cherish.

At age 60, Dad is a new student. He's gone back to school—again—this time, studying for his Masters in Divinity. He was very excited about it at the outset. (We all were!) But when I went home to visit a few weeks ago, his enthusiasm had decidedly waned.

"How are you?" I greeted him in his office.

He made a noise that was part groan and part growl. "Not good," he answered honestly. "I've got a paper due in Theology, and I have no idea what I'm doing."

Little did he know, Mom had already prepped me, saying, "Your dad's really struggling with his classes this semester. It's the reading that's doing him in. You love to read. Do you think you could give him some pointers when you're home?" I wasn't sure if I'd be of any use in this area. If not for Mom's nudging, I may well have simply sympathized with my dad, then left him alone in his office to tackle his studies on his own (flailing) terms. But instead, I offered to listen.

I listened as he detailed how lost he'd felt in his classes, wondering what academia had to do with spirituality. I listened as he described how his ADD seemed to be more distressing than ever when he sat down to read. And I heard the sadness and saw the despair in his voice, words and body language.

That's when the coach in me kicked in. Over the next two days, we spent the bulk of our time in the office: Mom popped in from time to time to give one or both of us a hug or offer us some hot tea; Dad and I surrounded ourselves with his textbooks, a dictionary of theological terms and his past essay papers. We huddled together over the computer, sometimes with a cat on one of our laps, or leaned back in our chairs to make sweeping gestures as we shared expansive thoughts. When it was all said and done, Dad had a number of action items on his calendar (meet with his study group or study solo at the library on class days, for example), several tools in his study arsenal (like a dictionary on his smart phone and a running list of new vocabulary words), and a mantra—or customized affirmation—that gave him complete peace of mind over his process ("I do have the time, and I do know the words").

Most gratifying to me was this: Not only did my dad say he understood the material now more than he had in six weeks, he had his head held up high, his shoulders squarely back, and a smile on his face again. Dad had rediscovered his self-confidence in his place in seminary.

What do you think lack of time and lack of knowledge are holding back in your life? Do you really have the time? Do you really know the words? Dad does now. He's even been using his new-found knowledge where he'll need it most: the pulpit.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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