I’ve been meaning to blog for such a long time, but I’ve been getting extra-focused on my business of late. My fellowship with the Kauffman Foundation has crossed the halfway point and I am anxious to maximize all the resources at my disposal before the program ends. So any time spent doing anything outside of the business feels like time away from what should be Priority#1. Balancing kids and the business has always been a problem and I don’t know how well I do. On the one hand, I likely do better than a lot of entrepreneurs out there. On the other hand, I try to hold myself to a higher standard and there are days when I think I should just quit and take a job where I wasn’t so invested in the outcome. In that case, I might be able to focus on the kids. But I’m just not ready to do that—at least not yet. So I muddle through, sacrafice sleep to maintain a balance, and try to do the best I can. And in the stages where the business really starts to consume me, I need to find the time to regain myself. This weekend, I needed it badly.
I had come off a particularly good week but was completely exhausted. I had a bunch of tasks planned for Saturday, but realized that I just couldn’t focus. So I took my first nap in ages and that helped start restoring myself physically. Then, instead of doing a bunch of work, I spent a couple of hours talking to my dad (who was over for our weekly family dinner) about things, including the business. While not as productive on taking care of my task list, there’s something about a son having a chat with his father that feels nice. Then Sunday, I went for an early morning run and then caught the Orioles baseball game on TV—without a laptop open, as is my custom. I’d sneak patches of work in here and there in the day, but I made a conscious effort to find some balance. I was thinking about the business most the time, but I was still doing things that weren’t directly related and that helped provide some balance. Of course, the ultimate ticket to my balance is 39 inches tall and refers to me as “Daddy Bear”.
For weeks now, Iris has been asking to get some “chapter books” to read. She really likes the idea of reading more and more complex books and has become this huge EB White fan. She already has Charlotte’s Web and the Trumpeter Swan. So Sunday, we went to Half-Price Books to get a copy of Stuart Little (which she has wanted for a while to close out the White trilogy) and one other book. We had been planning on it for weeks and I finally committed to do it this weekend. We referred to it as “going book hunting” (some fathers take their sons hunting for deer, I take my daughter hunting for paperbacks). To be clear, Iris looked forward to this trip the way other kids look forward to Disney World. In addition to Stuart Little, we ended up getting Kipling’s The Jungle Book as well. As tired hunters, we took a trip to Jamba Juice to split a smoothie. Finally, it was off to Office Max to buy highlighters. She has wanted a highlighter for the longest time and couldn’t stop talking all weekend about whether to get pink or yellow. Why a highlighter, you may ask? So she can read the books on her own and highlight the words so she can study them. She wants to get all the highlighted words together, put them on a big poster board, and get tested on each one—and she wants a dime for each hard word she gets. Then she wants to use part of the money to get a new book and the other part to give to Haiti “because they still need my money” You can’t make this stuff up. Studious, capitalistic, and philanthropic. Seriously, I love this kid.
But what was truly remarkable is just the tenor of our time together. She was incredibly grateful for the books + highlighters (total cost: $20 and even this spending is rare—she’s the kid equivalent of a cheap date). She was smart and clever and we talked during the whole time in the car and the stores. She kept peppering me with thoughts, phrases, and questions that had me thinking “this kid can’t be 5”. One of my favorites was when I told her the story about taking her to Jamba Juice as a baby on Saturday mornings while mommy was sleeping to surprise mommy with a smoothie.
ME: “You were so tiny and helpless back then and now you handle yourself so well. I can’t believe how much you’ve grown and that you’re so big.”
IRIS: “I can believe it. What I can’t believe is that I was ever so small because I don’t remember any of it.”
She didn’t mean it maliciously in a “Daddy, you’re an idiot” sort of way. Just a personal observation that made a whole lot more sense than what I said. Later, she explained that it’s too bad I was so old or else she’d want to marry me. I reminded her that I was already married but that didn’t deter her. She then said, “Daddy, you’d be the best person to marry.” I responded, “wow, thank you Iris. That’s very sweet and very nice of you to say.” “Daddy,” she responded while laughing as if I was sticking chopsticks in my mouth to look like a walrus to make her laugh (which I occasionally do), “why are you so surprised? Of course you’re the best person. You teach me to read, you tell me funny jokes, we brush teeth together, and we like to go book hunting. Of course you’re the best person to marry.” Can’t argue with that logic.
Given I’ve been stressing the idea that maybe I’m not doing enough to be a good father, that was like a shot in the arm. It doesn’t get much better than a marriage proposal. It reminded me of her birthday, where we had a similar conversation and she said she was proud of me after I told her how I was proud of her. But unlike a birthday where the need to share special affections seem obvious, this was pretty much unsolicited—and yet it came at such an important time for me. Spending time with her has become such a joy and having these interesting, rational conversations is such a trip. Robyn isn’t quite old enough to express these ideas, but Iris has reached the age where she’s very honest about these things and she’s very clear about what she thinks and what she appreciates. And the truth is, she appreciates me. Wholeheartedly. Completely. Unconditionally. Even if there are days that I get home late or seem distracted by crazy business stuff. It’s my responsibility to never abuse this unconditional love and I don’t think I will. Because amidst the accountants, lawyers, investors, customers, and co-workers, she knows there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than book-hunting with her.
As we drove home, she proclaimed this the best day ever.
I proclaimed that she should stay five forever.