“Mommy, guess what day it is? It’s Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker Bears Birthday!”
A bear. A stuffed one. Also known as my 4-year-olds “baby,” when he’s bored of his real-life little brother. “We need to have a party mommy,” he exclaimed.
Nobody likes to be caught off guard, especially if we are individuals that thrive on structure. For those of us in the hospitality industry though, structure is an insanely loose and fluid term. A strong operations team follows specific standard operating procedures (SOP’s) and must hold each other accountable for staying consistent with the process.
When things start to spiral, the guest experience gets messy, and inefficiencies rear their ugly heads. The SOP's have to be the foundation and the core of what we do in hospitality, because that variable called the guest, is always challenging us and trying to poke holes in the process. This means we’re forced to ebb and flow as needed to flex within the framework and create customized guest experiences at the same time.
The type A team members create the structure, and the conceptual creative brains, layer in the experience. It’s a carefully choreographed dance to find a middle ground within a team regarding when/who/how we stay rooted in the structure, versus leaning in to step outside the box. We are put in these scenarios, multiple times a day, every single day in the hospitality world.
For those of you in events operations, I’m extremely confident you know what a POP-UP event is. And you possibly just either cringed or made a noise like “ugh” out loud at the thought of a pop-up.
It’s probably a concept you don’t miss during furlough, especially if you are the chef or banquet leader. A pop-up event is any event or meal function, no matter what size, that a client adds to the mix of an already dynamic workload either for that same day, or the next day. Though not always a big deal, the more of these that occur on-site, the greater the odds are for the wheels to start falling off the bus.
Nevertheless, as professionals, we anticipate pop-up events and prepare in advance for them. It’s just something you learn to intuitively expect and innately just start to sense when they will be a reality. As they arise though, we are grateful for the extra revenue, empathetic to the planner who we know is just the messenger, and work together as a team to make it happen.
Pop-up events are those constant reminders to never get too comfortable and nothing is ever actually in our control in this business.
Back to the bear.
"Today is his birthday," I responded to my 4-year-old, groggily still trying to wake up.
“Yes! And we need to throw him a birthday party,” he said.
Did I just get a pop-up? Sure seems like.
I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have the resources to pull together a pop-up event, by myself, to the level of detail I would typically expect of myself, even for a stuffed bear. I’ve been called a control freak at work, however, I much prefer to say that I'm a perfectionist that funnels that energy into specific projects.
Since I’ve been trying to work on various aspects of personal growth post being furloughed and ultimately laid-off, I decided to relinquish control and just let my son be in charge. It’s his “baby,” let him make it how he wants.
He had a vision, so just I needed to pick my battles on when to obsess and when it just didn't matter.
So let the party planning commence. There needed to be cupcakes, so I drove the boys to the grocery store and let them pick out the cake batter and frosting.
They loved using the mixer, cracking eggs, and pouring in all the ingredients. I didn’t step in except to guide and let them do it together. It was a fun activity for all of us to just let them make, bake, ice, and sprinkle.
I even let the sprinkles happen. I just closed my eyes.
Both with stuffy noses and little head colds, they coughed all over each cupcake and licked the icing while spreading them on the deformed puffs of the baked batter.
Eyes still closed.
It was time to clean up and set up the party, so my 2-year-old got the vacuum out. Perfect. The 4-year-old was in charge of the counters. Turns out raw egg washes off pretty smoothly on antique white cabinets. Good to know. This job definitely might warrant a call to Upgrade Cleaning Solutions in the coming days.
My son informed me the party time was at “16.55 hours,” and the venue? Behind the curtains. I had to step in on that one. The kitchen counter will do just fine.
My 4-year-old turned the lights down and held Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker Bear tight. We lit the candles (2 for two years... only owned the guy for 2 months) and as a family, we sang happy birthday to our little bear family member. The boys helped our guest of honor blow out the candles and they indulged in our half iced gooey edged treats. It was perfect and my son was so happy.
Amazing how much kindness a 4-year-old can exude, we learn so much from our children. I’m so proud of him, but also so proud of myself for letting go today. Letting his creativity, imagination, and innocence run free. I remained patient and had fun with them, and let the icing and sprinkles cover my boys, myself, and my kitchen for a stuffed bear and my son's heart. I let go of the imperfect aesthetic of the messy cupcakes when usually I would have been in knots over them not being Pinterest worthy enough to perfectly display in my kitchen. They were masterpieces in their own way.
I did however smirk as I closed the kitchen down and glanced at the sweets sitting proudly in their glass cake stand on my counter. Green cupcake liners, perfectly matching my house decor. My subconscious had kicked in and awarded me one tiny design win so while on display I can look at those cupcakes daily without completely twitching. I guess I’ll consider it the symbolism of the balance I’m finding these days is my new normal.
My new pop-up event approach.
My clients would have expected perfection, even for a pop-up. My team and colleagues would have pushed ourselves to execute perfection, even under the time constraints. But my little internal “clients” that I report to now, could have cared less.