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Becoming a Kid Again

“Dad, do you have to work today? Can’t you play with us today instead?” That’s where it all started.

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“Dad, do you have to work today? Can’t you play with us today instead?” That’s where it all started.

This is an interesting “experiment” that we find ourselves in. During normal times, you would never be so “reckless” as to test what would happen if…. Let’s try all working from home. Let’s try not ever eating out and instead, all eating dinner as a family every night. Let’s buy locally and support our local businesses. Let’s only engage with those closest to us whom we trust the most.

My kids in their young, innocent (see “manipulative and conniving”) way asked me to take the day off and play with them instead of working. This normally would have been an unreasonable request. Aside from my responsibilities, the core of my foundation is hard work and trying to set an example. But, things feel different now. Less certain, but more grounded at the same time. Unpredictably grounded.

I smiled, chased them around the family room acting like I was crazy and asked them what they wanted for breakfast.  “Chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream” was the response.  I have gotten up at 4:00a every morning since I was in my late teens and try to work out most of those days. But this morning as I shared in chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream, all I’m thinking about is this powerful flashback to my childhood when my grandparents surprised me one morning.  They told my parents they were taking me to school but instead, took me the International House of Pancakes for breakfast where I had for the first time in my life, chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream. It took me right back there, with my grandparents. The surprise, the secrecy, the excitement and the amazing tastes and smells!

After breakfast, my kids asked, “What are we going to do now?” Since the world has changed, one of the many changes are the local car washes are closed. In our “busy and important” lives, car washes are one of those things that I did the cost/time analysis and delegated to others a long time ago. I’m embarrassed that I can’t remember the last time I washed my own car, but today is a different day. “We’re washing my truck,” was my response. Their eyes lit up like I told them we were going to Disneyland. Having a 9 and 3 year old help wash a truck is akin to trying to wash it in a dust storm. There were hose fights, buckets of suds thrown and perhaps the only clean thing at the end were my kids. But a funny thing happened. As I was drying the truck and wiping down the crevices, applying Armor-All to the tires, it took me back to my younger days. There was a time for a few weeks where I had to live in my car, but I made sure it was always clean. I was beyond broke then when I met the girl who someday would be my wife. It was the day of what was going to be our first official date and I had literally starved that week saving up enough money to take her out. I spent a couple hours that day trying my best to polish up the jalopy I called a car that would pick her up. I remember my excitement about taking her out and even though it was a beat up mess, I felt pride in my job of cleaning up my own car.

The rest of the day was filled with things like building a cardboard fort in the backyard, planting vegetable seeds in the garden and then pushing them on the swing I hung from the backyard tree. Each activity propelled me back to the story of my life as a kid and young man. I have to say it was an emotional day filled with a ton of laughter and things that hopefully someday, will be their own memories of their childhood.

This time away from the chaos has done something interesting. I’ve thought about things from when I was young that I haven’t considered in years. I’ve grown to know my family at an even deeper level and have been reminded of the things the create true happiness and love. I’ve been reminded that Facebook does not measure who your “friends” are, but times of uncertainty do. I’ve thought a lot about things like perhaps, I’ve realized that when all of this restarts, maybe I want to restart it differently.  Raise my kids differently. Love my family differently. Prioritize differently.

We have a choice of how we view our current environment, what we learn from it and what we decide becomes our new “normal.” We have to decide about the “scoreboard” that matters most in our lives and whether it includes things like promotions and bank accounts, or is it a collection of memories and experiences. Of course we all have responsibilities and the answer I hope is some version of “balance.” But I am now praying for the strength to find that balance when we return to our normal lives and make sure that I keep only the things that truly are most important in this life.

More than ever before, I am grateful for the privilege of serving this great industry and that I can call many of you friends. Your calls and letters of support mean the world to us and it is why we do what we do!  Take care of yourselves, your family and your team.