The first time I presented our daughter, Lindsay Petty Wattam, with a bouquet of flowers, she was in fifth grade. She was being honored with the school’s special citizenship and leadership award. It would be almost 25 years before I would get to do it again and it was truly a special “Mom Moment!”
This was the fifth year I’ve had the privilege of facilitating a leadership development program for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership St. Pete®Class, one of the oldest programs in the country. During their closing retreat, which culminated six intensive months of exploration and discovery about our special St. Pete community, I led the group through a two-hour Hartman workshop with a focus on developing diverse leaders in our community.
However, this year was extra special for me as Lindsay (Class of 2017) was Chair of this year’s class, her fifth year of involvement in the program. Tasked with having to introduce her Mom to a room filled with more than 50 of her peers, Lindsay described how she has grown as a leader and the ways in which she felt I had modeled strong leadership for her along our Mom-Daughter journey. I found it hard to hold back the tears.
As a journalist, newspaper publisher and CEO for almost 30 years, I traveled quite a bit, much to Lindsay’s disappointment. After whispering goodbye to her very early one morning and hearing her plea not to leave, it was then that I determined she would begin to travel with me to major conferences, dresses and homework in hand. I wanted her to experience the ways in which I was called upon to lead in my industry. She shadowed me at corporate board meetings, at day-long Associated Press meetings, and yes—her first cocktail reception at the Chicago Museum of Art. At the age of 11, she could already sum up the experience of a standing-room only cocktail reception: “Mom, I’m hungry and my feet hurt. Can we get a cab?”
By eighth grade, Lindsay had earned the moniker, “Little Mrs. Petty,” by the dean of students at Shorecrest Preparatory School. I had clearly failed in my efforts to get Lindsay to adopt only my strengths and avoid the weaknesses: impatience, desire for perfection and the urge to fix everything. Observing Lindsay’s leadership of the Class of 2022 and the numerous accolades individuals were sharing, it was obvious that she still drives to make everything and everyone in her sphere of influence better.
The LSP closing retreat now gave me the rare opportunity to formally recognize what an impressive leader Lindsay has become and to present her with only the second bouquet of flowers ever. It’s what happened next that made it an extraordinary “Mom Moment.” The entire room stood to give Lindsay a standing ovation in recognition of her leadership.
As parents, there are two key things we strive to give our children; a good education and a strong set of values. If we are successful, the gift we get in return is a front-row seat to their personal and professional growth and their accomplishments. I’m very fortunate that Lindsay still seeks my counsel and advice. We still solve problems together and encourage each other to detach and focus on strategies for recharging ourselves.