Vivian Vaillant runs fun and funny workshops for people who want to work better with the people they’re working with or serving. Based in Canada, she combines her experiences as a professional clown, an intentional community member, and an entrepreneur to bring a lighter side to tough people problems we all face when we work together. In this guest blog she shares how she adapted her use of Ketso as a workshop tool, to help her own family communicate and plan together during the pandemic. Find her website here.
I’ve gotta tell you I’m really missing work these days. Sure, I’m still coaching and I am getting some important projects off my plate, but I miss my in-person workshop time. I miss it so much that when the opportunity to use my favourite workshop tool presented itself in my own family I couldn’t resist.
Here on Vancouver Island in Canada the kids all went back to school this September. At first we were all very ready to get some normal back. Up until now our local government had asked us to keep our distance from all but what has been coined our “Safe Six”. For us that was taken up by extended family, and the kids were feeling pretty ready for some social time. The plans sent home from the schools seemed thoughtful, and we’ve been lucky so far to have a low case count. So off they went to three different schools, into three different cohorts and we were all so happy.
Managing family life during a pandemic
Then the new reality hit and suddenly we weren’t feeling as safe or certain as we started out. We noticed right away that we were suddenly feeling exposed to the whims of a relatively large number of people. While each of the children felt safe within their cohort, we realized that the sheer number of cross-cohort connections left us feeling vulnerable. To top it off, we have grandparents we want to keep safe, younger cousins we need to do childcare for who go to even more schools. We were noticing how, because our government has been more suggestive than forceful, our own interpretation of the rules would shift depending on what was happening and how we were feeling on any given day. A social distance birthday would seem fine one day- but off limits the next. I’d scoff at a request for a child to see a friend, but then I’d meet my own friend for coffee at an open cafe. Other families would ask for things I’d desperately want to say no to, (or yes to) but felt I couldn’t (or shouldn’t). One thing was clear: NOTHING felt clear. As parents we felt completely ill-equipped to balance our desire for the kids to have some sort of normal while still keeping our community safe. There were just too many moving parts. Tensions were high and the stakes felt even higher.
Ketso to the rescue
Out came Mom’s Ketso! (Insert Superhero Music here). Yes. I sat my whole family down with leaves and a felt and we just dove right in. We asked what was working with the brown leaves and used the yellow for what wasn’t. We asked what they were worried about and needed with the grey leaves, and what we could do more of with the green.
“It put us in a team problem solving mode that let us collect the reasons why we had to make different choices for now, and a surprising number of new ideas we could look forward to.”
Solving problems as a team
I “thought” the exercise would help us get the kids on board with plans I already had. Boy was I wrong! What really happened was that we opened a huge conversation about fairness and feelings that we sort of hadn’t had yet. Because we gave them equal voice we heard how unfair it was that we got to choose our “Safe Six”. While they love our family, it didn’t seem fair that their own friends were off limits. We also discovered that they felt deep loss of their extracurricular and that they needed something to look forward to. Looking back, I know we’d all expressed these things before, but sitting around the Ketso all together it felt different. There was a certain sort of ceremony involved in addressing all the emotion on the board all at once. It allowed us to make peace with the ridiculous reality we’re all facing these days. And it also allowed us to strengthen our own resolve. It put us in a team problem solving mode that let us collect the reasons why we had to make different choices for now, and a surprising number of new ideas we could look forward to.
So now we’re ordering snack box subscriptions and building heated covered visiting areas in our yard that will let some visiting happen safely when it can. We’re saying no to most, but allowing compromise and understanding when we can. It isn’t always fair, but it’s thoughtful and we’re on the same page. Right now that’s good enough.