I’ve spent most of my career (which feels like a very strong word) engaged in some kind of communications work, often in marketing some nonprofit. In marketing there is this concept of a campaign, usually meant to accomplish a specific purpose centering around changing idea of changing perceptions or creating new ones. I’ve created ads, taglines, letters, posters, handbills, fact sheets, web copy…the list goes on but none of the campaigns I’ve worked on have ever been as important as the one I’ve recently launched in my own house. Lucille is precocious. Lucille is creative. At times it’s hard to keep up with Lucille’s grand plans for a cardboard box village in our living room. A slide here, a bathtub there. A swing for her animals that hangs from the kitchen table, a set of stairs in the house she built, complete with a rocking chair, out of a milk box from Costco. She sings, she dances and, as she did this morning, pulls the kitchen chairs to the ground when she’s mad or frustrated.
For a long while now I’m pretty sure we’ve been sending her the message that this behavior isn’t okay. That it’s inappropriate. That’s it’s in some way bad and I was worried that she was beginning to see herself as the thorn in my side, the problem child, the pain in the ass. It was fine, in my mind, for her to embody this role if that’s what she needed to grow and be herself but it was another issue entirely for her to own that and internalize it.
So I started a mini campaign: We are so lucky, we got you.
When she giggles down the road of potty talk, cracking herself up with butt crack and fart jokes, I responded not with criticism and telling her to stop but with a new tactic.
“Lucille, we are so lucky,” I said. “Do you know why?”
“Why,” she said between hilarious bouts of laughter about running around naked.
“Because we got you. Some people get boring kids who don’t laugh or play or sing but we, we got you!”
Now I know I was, as my grandmother will say, laying it on a little thick here but it seemed worth a shot.
“Yeah, some kids don’t like to draw or make things but you do. We got you!”
I wasn’t sure this sunk in the first few times I tried it but then one day I heard her repeating it to her sister.
“Did you know people get boring kids? That don’t draw or make things?” she said. “But I do!”
I nearly leapt over the couch to get in on this conversation.
“Yeah, Eliza, did you know we are so lucky that got a kid like Lucille! She’s not boring–she sings at the dinner table. She dances to all kinds of music. She thinks butt cracks are hilarious. We are so lucky!” I said.
Eliza looked at me a little like I’d landed from Mars but, like the great freaking kid she is, she went with it.
“Lucille, some kids don’t know their alphabet and you do,” she said.
Now that’s what I’m talking about, I thought, go kid go!
And like all marketing campaigns, there is an outcome and ours has been worth every moment invested, no matter how contrived. Lucille sees herself as special and not in a bad way. What more could you ask for from a successful campaign?