What happens when you don’t interfere

The girls participated in their first-ever Destination Imagination tournament this weekend, and I—as one of Jilly’s Team Managers—came along for the ride. 

I’ve already written a bit about DI and how one of the major tenets is that no one can “interfere” with a team. This means that NO ONE—-not family members, friends, other teams’ members, siblings, and most definitely managers—can influence or help a team with their challenge. 

This is hard.

Every. Single. Time. my team would practice, the words, “Great Job!” would be out of my mouth before I could stop them. And four pairs of eyes would shoot quickly in my direction while my daughter cried, “MOM! No interference!

This meant I couldn’t balk when they decided to use cardboard (trash) boxes for 99% of their set and props. I couldn’t tell them to wear better costumes. I couldn’t insist that they repaint a prop, or change their script, or rethink a solution they had come up with as a team.


This was all about the four of these goofballs, ages 7-9, getting up in front of a room of people and five appraisers, and doing their thing while I sat on my hands, teeth clenched together.

And, this little crew who had never done this before? With their “trash” props and backdrop and their spare costumes? But with their own kick-ass idea, awesome poem, and amazing balsa-wood structure? Came in fourth in their regional competition, just a wee bit behind the third-place team. 

My oldest daughter, whose performance I had never even seen—who has never, ever done a lick of theater—stood on stage in total character and, at least for me, stole the show. (I can say that as a mama, right?) Her group of giggly, smart, and fabulous 10-12 year old girls tied for fifth place out of 19 teams. 

I am so proud of them. And proud of us parents who were able to keep our big mouths shut (most of the time) and keep our hands out of their work. 

Turns out, when you don’t interfere, these kids do pretty well on their own.

I think there is a reason it reads as "die"

We are one week from my Elementary-Level Destination Imagination team’s regional competition. Otherwise known as DI.

I am so tired.

Our team is doing a challenge that includes both a skit and a balsa-wood structure that must hold weight and collect golf balls. Somehow these two must be related.

The competition is March 17. Yet, my little four-person team does not yet have a structure, a complete script, finalized set, or finished props. 

Did I saw I was tired?

Ever try to motivate four distracted 8-9 year olds who aren’t really sure they want to do this anymore? And, if you know DI, you know there is only so much “motivating” I can do before I step into the sticky mess of “interference”, a dirty word in DI circles. 

(You know why the dads build 99% of those pine wood derby cars in Cub Scouts? Because without “interference”, you age about 25 years.)

But, I guess it’s good that we have the interference clause because it’s kept me from wringing my daughter’s neck when, instead of painting her ONE prop, she decides to run outside and play with her friends.

Hands off, hands off, hands off. My new mantra. 

I hope I survive this.

And, yes, I already have a pedicure scheduled for the 18th. May have to throw a massage and facial on top of that.

Destination Imagination: A journey to the unknown

Have you ever heard of D.I., or Destination Imagination

I had only heard the words in passing from an extended-family member whose kids were involved, and I didn’t understand what the heck it was.

Now, here it is January, and I find myself in charge of a team. And I’m still not exactly sure what the heck it is. 

What I can gather from what I’ve read, the videos I’ve watched, and the day-long information seminar I attended in December, D.I. is a team competition where the adult managers are constantly warned of the dangers of “interference”. 

Ahhhh, interference. This is how I found myself managing a D.I. team. This idea that the kids have to do all the work themselves, with only my guidance—to keep them from cutting off a finger or punching a fellow team member— was appealing to me. In other words, I am discouraged from doing any of the work for them, and even giving them suggestions on how to approach their challenge is a big, fat no-no.

Little did I know that my team of four kids, ages 7-9, would pick one of the hardest, most complicated challenges to do for the big competition this spring. I’d explain it if I could do it justice, but let’s just say it involves creating a skit that involves golf balls, while also building a weight-bearing structure out of wood, glue and hope. The addition of golf balls to this year’s “structure challenge” is new and I think it was added just to shake things up and insure each manager goes a little grayer before the year is up.

My own daughter Jilly is on my team and is the biggest goofball, something I am slightly proud of at times. The other times, I want to wrap her up with duct tape, sit her in the corner and let her teammates work.

Our debut of this idea that exists only in their imagination is the 17th of March, a mere two months away. If the kids advance from regionals, we move on to states on the 31st. I refuse to even consider that they will go to the national championship.

Especially since there has not yet been any consensus on their overall idea and no development of a structure yet. I am half expecting them to enter the competition with a few handwritten notes, a structure of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, and costumes made out of the remnants of our dress-up box.

Wish me luck. Actually, wish them luck. I don’t want to interfere.