Navigating the Hold-on Zone
“Dad, one of my friends from first period said you were cool,” Jessie, my 12-year-old daughter, shared with me right before I gave a presentation to her sixth-grade creative writing class.
I’ve given presentations in board rooms and churches — even to first- and second-grade classes, but never to sixth-graders. Jessie couldn’t wait for this day. She even began working on a Prezi for me. Prezi is “presentation software that uses motion, zoom and spatial relationships to bring your ideas to life.” During my accounting career, I brought my ideas to life in audit reports.
Sometimes I voluntarily go outside my comfort zone, other times I’m pushed or pulled. Often, it’s Jessie doing the pushing and pulling. I can’t say three, 47-minute classes with approximately 30 students each fell within my comfort zone, especially going into unchartered waters with Prezi.
Looking back through my fatherhood days, I’ve concluded the comfort zone has a neighboring area, called the “hold-on zone,” where parents spend a lot of their time.
I held on to my stomach contents when Jessie’s doctor delivered her via cesarean section. I visited the hold-on zone again the next day, ironically, because of what Jessie failed to hold onto, which was now filling her diaper.
I’m never in my comfort zone when Jessie is ill. Mattie and I almost took Jessie to the emergency room when she suffered her first ear infection at 14 months old. At age 11, Jessie came down with pneumonia and we did take her to the emergency room. My comfort zone and hospital zones don’t have much overlap.
Then there was the time Jessie, age 3, pulled my tennis shorts down in the church elevator. She lost her balance and grabbed the pockets on each side of my shorts. I wasn’t the only one out of my comfort zone, standing there in my jock strap. I’m sure the mother in the elevator was outside of hers, too. Hold-on zone? Hold on to my shorts!
My guess is that the boundaries of my comfort zone will continue to be tested when Jessie’s teenage years arrive. I won’t be in my comfort zone in the passenger seat with Jessie behind the wheel of the car. “Hold on, Dad!”
How will I feel when the doorbell rings and a young man with flowers is ready to take Jessie on a date? Will I be in my comfort zone as I sit in the back of her date’s car or in the rear of the movie theater? Probably not, but maybe closer to it than if I let her go alone.
Overall, my creative writing presentations went well and Jessie’s teacher invited me back next semester. As the kids left the classroom, I gave each sixth-grader a piece of candy.
When I drove Jessie home from school later that afternoon, I asked, “How did I do?” Jessie, always honest, responded, “You did half-decent, Dad.” She suggested I eliminate a few “umms” and make a few tweaks to the Prezi. I thanked Jessie for her constructive feedback and said, “Well, at least I was cool with the first-period class.” Jessie responded, “Oh, my friend said you were cool because you gave out candy.” Wow, I went from cool to half-decent to cool only because of candy.
Whether it’s a comfort or hold-on zone, this I know. We grow with new experiences. Sometimes we’ll win and be cool. Other times, we’ll be half-decent or worse. Sometimes we might need to ask for help or even fail.
I’m confident Jessie will continue to fill my fatherhood days, and a few Prezi presentations, with zooms and motion. Hold-on zone, here I come! But I’ll be okay. I’m keeping a basket of candy nearby.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at amazon.com. Follow him at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.