Friday, April 28, 2006

Take Your Child To Play Day

Yesterday was "Take your child to work" day. The company I work for makes a huge event of this. This year, in my work location alone, there were over 800 kids who came. But I'll admit, I'm not quite sure what to think of this.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is great to allow your children to see you at work. The job place is an otherwise enigma to children. The mysterious location you disappear to day in and day out doing who knows what. All they know is I'm gone most of the day, and when I come back, we have more money to spend, except never enough to spend on that one more toy they want.

So when the opportunity comes that my children can see me in action, that's great. After all, for thousands of years, children worked alongside their fathers and mothers. They learned what it meant to be an adult by watching them. Today, adulthood is rarely introduced to them in any form until after they are, ironically enough, an adult.

This year, I brought along my two oldest boys, ages seven and six. And do you know what they learned?

Well, first that I apparently receive free breakfasts at our cafeteria each morning, if only I'm willing to wait in a line thirty minutes long. Then, I get to watch presentations on Liquid Nitrogen, build balloon-propelled race cars, meet "Phooey" the K-9 cop, climb into the back of police cars, stand in the middle of sound-proof booths, learn how garbage is turned into car parts, and throw paper airplanes from the top of a balcony to the patio below.

After a day like that, I suppose I should look forward to going to work more than I do. Thing is, my day is absolutely nothing like that. In fact, very little of that actually taught my kids one single bit about my job. It felt more like a Hands-On museum.

While there is nothing wrong with that, I feel it somehow lessened the day. I did manage to make time to show them my desk, even taught my boys the magic of for loops in the land of software engineering. I showed them some of the testing I do, too. We ate lunch together. (Although, I had to pay for this one out of my own pocket, and I should have taught them the important of bringing your own lunch, since the cafeteria here is outrageously expensive.) And we even took a walk in the nature trails, where I get my daily exercise.

But this was supposed to be "Take your child to work" day, not "Take your child to play" day.

Which brings me to another point. At one time, this was "Take your daughter to work day." An attempt to bring more women into the workplace by encouraging young girls to see what their parents did. Somewhere along the line, that wasn't considered politically correct, and transformed into the "your child" version. I laud that change, actually. However, I was fascinated when even my seven-year-old son picked up on something.

As we walked the tunnels that connect the buildings here, he said, "Dad? Why are most of the people who work here men?"

It's true. But I was shocked my son noticed. And how, exactly, do you answer that question? Even the experts don't fully agree on the answer to that one. So, I explained that while both men and women are capable of being engineers, for whatever reason, men seem to choose engineering more than women.

He was satisfied with the answer. It was the truth. But it also avoids all the debate behind the simple phrase, "whatever the reason." And then I wondered what all the little girls that came along with their fathers felt. The idea is that they are inspired to follow in his footsteps. But would they notice, too, that dad's work is apparently a man's job?

And finally, one last thought on the day. As I mentioned, there were 800 kids there. Each one with parents who want their child to know a little more about them. But I couldn't help but wonder about the ones left behind, so to speak. Back in their classrooms in school, how many kids sat in class, noticing that they were one of the few who didn't have parents who wanted to bring them in to work? Perhaps there are legitimate reasons. But, nevertheless, I could imagine the disappointment they must feel to know their friends are experiencing a day out with a parent, but they aren't. Kind of sad to think about.

Anyhow, that's my ponderings of the day. Time to go build myself a paper airplane...

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