Why I Take My Kids to WordCamps (And Why You Should, Too)

1R2A8201People who know me outside of WordPress know that I’m passionate about WordPress and, more specifically, its community. Those who know me from within WordPress know that I’m passionate about my family; so much so, that I’m sure that if you were ask anyone within the WordPress world who has known me for longer than five minutes, they’d tell you that it’s hard to get me to talk about anything else. Yup. It’s no secret that I love my family.

Now, traditionally, in most professional settings, children were the things that people spoke about at work around the water cooler or during coffee breaks. There’d be the occasional, “Bring your brat to work day,” which was, likely more often than not, more exciting to the kids than it was to the parents. And then there were the rare times parents would bring kids to work because they had to (sitter called in sick and other such circumstances).

I have *mostly* been an entrepreneur my whole adult (and a lot of my child) life. The few times I was not did not end well (not that all my endeavors ended well, either). And throughout my life as a business owner, I always had this feeling that I’d never be satisfied until I found a true community in which I could be a part. It only made sense to me that the only true path to success *for me* was if the people around me also experienced success. But it had to be more than that. I wanted to be around people who participated in the success of others. People who recognize that if we all do well then we ALL do well. While it sounded a bit like Fantasy Land, I always felt that I would not be truly professionally happy until I found that land. It took me until I was 45 years of age before I found it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all peaches and cream, and as with anything that involves more than two human beings, there are politics. But the main underlying philosophy of those within the WordPress Community is that of a rising tide floating all boats. And it’s that part of the Community upon which I tend to focus.

The Importance of Congruence

Several years ago I saw a therapist. I was going through a lot of crap and had things to work out. Mostly, it was a safe place where I could talk about my feelings and not feel like I was being judged. At that point in my life, it was really important to have someone who wasn’t judging me. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about those sessions. I know I talked a lot and I know my therapist wouldn’t let me off the hook when it came to things I needed to do. But one thing she said to me which really stuck was that in order to achieve happiness, one’s heart and head needed to be congruent. Until then, there’d always be internal conflict and I’d never achieve the peace I was looking for.

That single thing hit me hard enough that it was the one thing I needed out of therapy to change things in my life. Specifically, I needed to pursue the things that both my head and heart said were achievable. For me, it meant Community. For me, I realized that my greatest sense of accomplishment was always when I helped someone become part of something bigger than they were. To see their success and happiness was my success. Whether it’s an old friend or someone I just met, it always only made sense to me that being a part of someone else achieving great things meant that the world around us improved, if just by a little bit.

My pursuit became to be part of a community of people helping people, no matter whether it was personal or professional. The only way my heart and head could remain in line with each other was if I could find that place.

Today, I live in a neighborhood that is more like a community than anything I’ve ever experienced. The neighbors do things together and we’re a pretty tight-knit bunch. When we moved to Milwaukee, this was key in our decision making process. And when I was 45 (Oh – it may have been 44. The point is, close to my mid-40s), I discovered the actual Community of WordPress; a group of like minded people working to make the lives around them better while improving their own lives. While I am at the high end of the age spectrum within that community, I’ve never been made to feel so, and age rarely, if ever, comes up. As is required of a community, we, also, are a close-knit bunch and I’ve been lucky enough to make some true friends within the Community.

So, what does all of this have to do with my kids? What does it have to do with me taking them to the occasional WordCamp? The answer might not be what you think. No, I am not setting up the next coding dynasty. No, I do not even expect my kids to follow in my footsteps. Eli, for two years now, has his eye on growing up to become a biologist. Brenna wants to be a teacher, a mother, a police officer, a photographer and a few other things that I cannot remember offhand. I can assure you, however, that neither WordPress Developer or Designer are on the list. I expect them to follow the path that suits them. But what I want to show them is that the land of Community, both professionally and personally, does exist and that no matter what they pursue as they get older, they should always seek out communities that are supportive and realize that they need to be equally supportive of the people and communities around them. And if they see it first hand, they’ll pursue it. And if they pursue it, they might just find it before the age of 44. Or was it 45?

4 Comments

  1. Marc, you’re one of my favorite people in the WordPress community for this exact reason. I know that whether we’re chatting about WordPress-related things or life, I can always expect you to give all you have to the subject.

    WordPress, for many of us, is more than just a platform with a community surrounding it; It’s a major aspect of our lives. The line between family and other WordPress folks what we interact with doesn’t exist, and shouldn’t. It’s the life we chose (or somehow fell into and never left).

    I feel the WordPress community isn’t limited to developers and designers. Our families are part of it as well. They live this life with us, and even if they only understand that it’s “a thing we use to make websites” (as my wife would say), the WordPress community will always welcome them with open arms. That’s what makes this community so magical.

    • MarcBenz

      Jeff,

      If I’m one of your favorites, you clearly need to meet more people! 😉

      I do really enjoy watching people around me succeed in whatever their endeavor is (as long as it’s not, like, world domination or anything). And while I do think the WordPress Community is unique in so many ways (really, we’re a community of introverts who “get” each other, mostly), I think there are other like-minded communities as well. When we take on a profession of any sort, we do it for very personal reasons. Many of us do it for our families. It’s hard for me to see how, if you’re doing something for your family, you exclude your family from what you’re doing. It never made sense to me.

      When I was a kid, I was a frequent visitor to my dad’s office. Once in a while my mom, who was a Registered Nurse would take us to her work as well. Honestly, clinics and hospitals are no place for kids but she managed to make it work. I do think that both of my parents really enjoyed having us with them when we were there and they are very fond memories for me.

      I consider myself extremely lucky to have found a place where not only do I get to bring my family, but people ASK me to bring them. For a community to work, it has to accept each person as a whole. The WordPress Community does that. And that’s the secret sauce that makes the WordPress Community work.

  2. Stephanie

    We took my son (7) to his first WordCamp last month. Right now he’s interested in what we do, but the community aspect was such a big part of it. It was so incredible for him to be around so many grown-ups that treated him like a real person, answered his questions, and were just all-around encouraging him to be his best.

    He went in nervous to be a kid at WordCamp and left feeling like a part of something.

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