She said there was a story she wanted to tell me—a story about me that made her sit up and take notice some years before. It was a story that captured something she admired and wanted to cultivate more of in her own life, a story that explained why, when she heard that I was now a parent coach, she immediately contacted me and asked if I would work with her.
To her, it was quite a story. So it was my turn to sit up and take notice.
She described a time when I, along with some mutual friends, went to her home for a group playdate. All the kids were two to four years old at the time and we gathered to pretend to make Valentine’s crafts (because we all know what really happens when we try to get two- to four- year-olds to do organized crafts). She and I were enjoying our conversation and I wasn’t in any rush to head home alone with my trio, so after the other moms headed home for lunch and naps I stayed put to continue visiting a bit. We settled in the living room and my kids and her son began playing with some toys nearby.
It didn’t take long before squabbles erupted between the boys as they competed for wooden trains and pieces of track. Gabriel soon approached me and pointed an accusing finger at my friend’s son. “He won’t share his trains.”
My friend shared that at this moment she immediately felt the urge to get up and chide her son and explain to him how he needed to share his trains with Gabriel. She was about to rise from her seat when I quietly responded to Gabriel and asked, “Gabriel, what’s that in your hands?”
Gabriel—the big kid at three years old—looked down at the toys grasped in his pudgy preschool fingers. He looked back up at me. “Trains,” he responded.
“Did you bring those trains with you from home?”
“So who do they belong to?”
Gabriel indicated the little boy he had just accused of withholding. I looked Gabriel in the eye and he looked at me. “It looks to me,” I said, “like he is sharing. Those are some pretty neat trains and he’s letting you use them. Isn’t that kind of him?”
Gabriel looked at me. He looked down at the trains in his hands. Then he turned around and went back to playing.
“Carrington,” my friend said when she recounted this story several years later, “that’s when I knew you had something going on with this parenting thing that I wanted to rub off on me. I’m so glad we get to work together!”
Besides feeling enormously flattered and humbled by this friend—and client’s—expression of respect, I was struck by the power that one story had to freeze a feeling in this woman’s mind and catalyze her to action. Her knowledge of me and my approach, my manner and my personality was informed by many more interactions than just that one afternoon in her living room. But that particular memory stored a whole host of meanings for her and when the time presented itself, she didn’t hesitate to sign up for coaching and seek out more of what she had initially found so appealing. She was eager to learn, open to change and ready for action when we finally did work together. I am sure I learned as much from working with her as she did from working with me.
That’s the kind of symbiotic relationship I so enjoy in coaching: when client and coach can be students together, seeking better ways of being, of thinking, of parenting. We learn more when we learn together. So who do you admire? Who would you like to emulate? How can you use someone else’s approach to strengthen and solidify your own? This is what coaching so beautifully facilitates. We are always stronger with the partnership of others.