One day when I was feeling really overwhelmed by the administrivia, chores, chauffeuring and routines of our household, I asked my tweenage daughter:
“Of the things I do for you and your sister, which ones matter the most to you? What do I do that helps you feel really loved?”
I thought the answer might be something tender, or profound, like “Sneak in and kiss me before you go to bed.” or “Listen to me when I’m upset.” But instead it was truly prosaic:
“I like when you fold up the corners of the wax paper on my sandwich when you make me lunch. It makes me feel like my lunch is a present.”
And > boom < . I would never. ever. have thought that this mattered.
The power of asking, rather than presuming.
With my students, it’s the same thing. I obsess over crossing the i’s and dotting the t’s on the online syllabus, so that they know exactly what’s due and when. But they tell me they care less about that, than about being introduced to online tools like doodle.org and OHours that we use to schedule meetings.
Of all the different things I do to help them with their learning, it’s just a few that really hit home. And who knows which ones I’m missing, by not even including them?
What would happen if I asked them directly about what (beyond the basics, of course) they would like to get from me?
What do Au Pairs really want?
With au pairs, we all do our best to anticipate their concerns, to give them the help and support they need, to give them treats or breaks to reward them for their efforts.
And many times, these are silent offerings– we make the chocolate cake, not the carrot cake, because it seems more special. We put gas in the au pair car when we take it to the library, even though our au pair drives it 99% of the time. We bring home an extra Frappucino.
Or, we decide not to go to the late movie, and go to the early one instead so that our au pair can be off-duty in time to go out with friends. We don’t say anything about the disappearing People magazine, the one we bought for ourself that we haven’t read yet.
Or, we write out a full-day’s schedule. We leave post-its asking for menu ideas. We clean out and repack the diaper bag, adding extra wipes and a granola bar, even though that’s his job.
Which of these choices really matter? Which ones make things easier for our au pairs and help them feel supported? Which ones are irrelevant? Which ones don’t they even see?
Maybe we should ask?
As one reader commented:
I’d be really interested in knowing what APs really want… . Frequently I feel like I’m bending over backward for mine, but sometimes I get the sneaking suspicion that I’m bending over in the wrong direction and she doesn’t notice my efforts because it’s not really where she wants effort.