Throughout my life, some stories stand out for their inspiration. The following story, an excerpt from my book Fanny Rules: A Mother’s Leadership Lessons that Never Grow Old, is one of those stories.
My parents relationship thrived on understanding, support, and love. Join them around the virtual campfire to hear the evolution of their camping escapades, the mastery of new skills, and a defining moment that challenged societal norms. In the heart of this narrative lies a tale of roles well-played, personal growth, and the extraordinary feat of a petite lady who turned heads and expectations upside down with nothing but a motorboat and unwavering determination. The lesson in the story: Take a risk!
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Parts 1 and 2 of this newsletter series first to learn more about Mom, aka FANNY, and the teachable moments she imparted on me.
While reading the excerpt, keep in mind the following:
- What strengths do you provide in your workplace or familial role? Clear roles in a relationship, whether personal or working, allow individuals to play to their strengths and support each other, forming a strong and harmonious team.
- What skills can you develop to become a better, more well rounded person? FANNY continued to learn new skills throughout her life showcasing her determinization and ability to adapt.
- Are there expectations put on you, or that you put on yourself, that you can defy? Mom’s actions challenged gender stereotypes and societal expectations.
Confidence and Determination Build Strengths
Mom and Dad loved camping. When we were growing up, they would regularly share their escapades with us. When they were first married, on Friday nights, they’d head to their favorite spot alongside a stream. Their “tent” was their 1940s Mercury station wagon, where they’d fold down the back seats and roll out a foam mattress and place sleeping bags on top. Early morning breakfast was served just after the sun rose. Mom would open the car’s tailgate and out would come the Coleman stove. While Dad was off catching their lunch and dinner in the nearby stream, Mom would fire up the single burner to perk that dark, magic brew. Every morning started with a steaming pot of hot Maxwell House Coffee. They loved a good cup of coffee, even to the last drop. Mom always had a cup waiting for him when he returned with their bounty.
They knew their strengths and played well with them. Dad was the protector and provider. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. These were not just roles; they embodied their strengths and never begrudged the other for what they did or how they went about doing it. Mom and Dad were a team.
Over the years, the camping got a little more sophisticated. Their excursion experiences evolved with each new form of housing. What began as a station wagon for shelter was then upgraded to a canvas tent, then to Dad’s homemade version of a tear-drop trailer, to the bread truck he converted into a moving camper ending with a professionally constructed motorhome, which even had a hitch on the back to haul the small motor-powered fishing boat.
Dad did most of the driving in those days, but Mom could hold her own. She was the one who had the skill for backing the trailers and motorhomes with perfect precision into their spots. She did it while watching him through the side-view mirror. Those two knew how to support each other’s strengths and build a family and a life full of memories through sixty-five years of marriage.
As time went by, modern conveniences allowed Mom to make the coffee, put it in a Thermos, and join Dad with early morning fishing on their boat. With Dad’s experience, he taught Mom to fish, and she took it all in with ease. Mom was a quick learner, and that little lady held her own against the best of them! She even learned how to drive the boat and fish.
One day upon returning from a successful fishing expedition, they approached the riverbank in their small fishing boat, where several of Dad’s friends talked near the boat ramp.
They made eye contact with Mom.
She saw them, too.
Fanny looked at Slim.
He looked back at her with a level of uncertainty about what should happen next. Mom had only learned how to drive the boat a few weeks prior. This was supposed to be another simple practice run. Dad was the expert when it came to maneuvering the boat into the slip and onto the ramp. She had watched him often, but we all know that watching is not the same thing as doing. People who have mastered a skill make it look effortless; therefore, others can often approach the same act with overconfidence, thinking it may be easy.
Dad looked over and said, “Mommy, I know you can do this. Just remember what I taught you. But if you want, I can take it from here.” She knew the men were his friends, and if this didn’t go well…well, you get the picture. They were watching and waiting. Fanny replied confidently, “Nope, I got this.”
Before anyone knew what was happening, Fanny turned her ball cap around, so the bill was facing away from the back of her head. She gunned the engine and, with a flip of the wheel, perfectly turned the boat one hundred eighty degrees and slid it sideways into its spot. It was like perfect, parallel parking on the water. They then traded places, so Dad could finish bringing it up the ramp for loading. Mom got out of the boat and, in typical Fanny style, moved her cap back around, nodded to the men, and kept walking toward the pickup.
Dad enjoyed telling the story of Fanny and the motorboat. I think he got a big kick out of seeing the jaw-dropping look on their faces as the petite little lady strolled past them with all the confidence and assurance of a job well done. During one of our campfire chats, I asked her how she did it.
Mom took a sip of her coffee.
Leaned back in her chair.
Put her feet up on the ledge of the fire pit.
Then very calmly said, “For the life of me, all I remember is this: I saw those men who didn’t think a woman could handle a boat. It just fired up something inside of me. So, I turned my ball cap around, asked God, ‘Please don’t let me make a fool of myself in front of Slim’s friends.’ Then I closed my eyes and gunned the engine. The rest is history.”
Dad’s confidence in Mom may have given her the strength to pull off the motorboat victory. It could have been beginner’s luck. Whatever it was, Fanny took a risk and defined her character. The circumstantial facts of limited experience and a group of gawking men would not deny this extraordinary woman the opportunity to put what she had learned into action.
Confidence and determination build strengths – sometimes confidence is sparked by a belief someone else has in you. As the title of this newsletter encourages, “Take a risk… It may define your character!”
Leaders don’t often put their confidence in someone who they feel is incapable of stepping up to the plate. Given the baseball reference, think about a coach allowing a player to come up to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. They probably have some great bats sitting on the bench ready to pinch hit. But their educated decision to leave a specific player in the game is a vote of confidence in their belief in that player to get the job done. And sometimes that belief is just what the player needs to step up to the plate with confidence.
Dad’s belief in Mom to accomplish the task was just what she needed to instill that little boost of confidence in herself. Could she have been successful without Dad’s encouragement? Maybe, but I’m sure his belief in her only helped propel her to victory!
Thank you for reading my Cohesion Corner™ with Dr. Troy! blog. As a thank you, I would like to offer this free Strengths Self-Assessment downloadable. Complete the worksheet to discover your areas of leadership strength. Click here to download!
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